A nice example of mechanical engineering students using their skills to solve real-world problems. See the link below for more details.
Five mechanical engineering students created the Enhanced Mobility Wheelchair for their 2019 capstone design project, and now their work is being nationally recognized for improving accessibility and inclusivity in Canada.
Wheelchair users often face challenges when deciding which device to use to get around. Regular wheelchairs are easy to manoeuvre, but hand-cycle wheelchairs offer better speed efficiency. The Enhanced Mobility Wheelchair team has designed and prototyped an augmented wheelchair that provides users with the comfort and maneuverability of a traditional wheelchair while offering the speed of a hand-cycle wheelchair. The novel drive system provides greater ergonomic support and promotes good posture even when the operator is tired. Selectable gear ratios greatly improve motion efficiency on a variety of terrain, helping those confined to a wheelchair go further and faster than ever before.
This link gives a list and brief description of all of our fourth year design projects this year. Quite a range of project fields, from polymers to green buildings, water treatment, hydroponics, and waste treatment. The one on chocolate processing catches my eye!
There was a recent announcement about the launch of Waterloo’s “Problem Lab“. This seems like an interesting and very useful initiative. The goal of the Problem Lab is to help the UW community (faculty, staff and students) “identify and understand important problems”. Prof. Larry Smith, whom I have cited in other posts, is the Director and Founder. As they point out, innovation can often “fail because either the innovation is not important enough to be widely adopted, or the problem is poorly understood“.
In Engineering design, one of the first steps is supposed to be analyzing and understanding the problem (problem analysis). However, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating cool solutions to the apparent problem too early. Then we end up with products, innovations, and solutions that no one wants because it wasn’t really that important or worth our time and money investment. Or, we get solutions that don’t work because they didn’t actually solve the correct problem, but maybe just addressed a symptom of the fundamental problem.
In complex systems, sometimes you have to spend more time on determining the problem than the actual solution, which may turn out to be fairly simple. There are quite a variety of problem analysis methods that are available, depending on the field and context. One that often comes up in the Chemical Engineering field is Root Cause Analysis, for identifying product quality and equipment failure issues. Another one, for anticipating problems and solving them before they occur, is called HAZOP (hazard and operability analysis). We touch on these and other methods in some of our courses design case studies, and the capstone design projects, although it takes further training and experience to begin to use them effectively in industry.
The Problem Lab will have some pitch competitions, which look interesting. I’ll look forward to seeing how this evolves and what interesting things come out of it.
The University of Waterloo Autonomous Sailboat Team (UWAST) may be new to robotic sailing, but like every hardworking engineering team with one eye on the horizon, its goal is to win, not just compete.
UWAST team members Seamus Johnston, Richard Li and Jessen Liang are congratulated by event chairman Paul Miller (left).
With five main challenges over five days, UWAST members proved they were up to the task of facing seasoned veterans. The team finished sixth overall — not bad for a university that had entered this kind of international competition just once before in 2006.
Team leads Richard Li and Seamus Johnston were joined by Lily Liu, Jessen Liang, Jonathan Parsons, Chris Carnduff, Trevor Van Leeuwen, Dominic Faryna and Julian Howarth, plus faculty advisor Professor Jan Huissoon.
Representing the full spectrum of engineering – from mechatronics and mechanical, to electrical and chemical – members are optimistic they set the stage in Annapolis for future success. Continue reading →
An interesting competition event showcasing environmental water quality innovations by student groups. Sponsored by the Water Institute at Waterloo, one of the research centres I belong to.
The AquaHacking 2017 semi-final competition unfolded last week at CIGI. By the end of the evening, five teams were chosen to move on to the final competition at Waterloo on September 13. It was a difficult decision for the five judges, as all 17 teams that competed offered innovative ideas that tackled the challenges and opportunities facing Lake Erie.
June 18 is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the final major clash between Napoleon’s French Imperial forces and the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian allies arrayed against him, near a small village in modern-day Belgium. The battle clearly resonated throughout the western world, resulting in the eventual use of the name “Waterloo” for a county and village in Ontario, and a university named after the city where it was founded. There is also a Waterloo in Quebec, Iowa, New York State, New Zealand, and many other locations according to Wikipedia. You might wonder what history has to do with the theme of this blog, but I’ve managed to find a connection. Continue reading →