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Student-run design expo packs Tech Center Ballroom, connects students with industry

design expo

On Thursday, April 21, nearly 150 students, staff, faculty, alumni and members of industry packed the WVU Tech Center Ballroom for the 2016 WVU Tech Design Expo.

Now in its second year, the expo allows students from various disciplines to share their senior design projects. Attendees discussed 31 student projects ranging from automated golf carts and concrete canoes to smart house technology and portable solar power.

Tavon Johnson, a senior mechanical engineering student and expo co-founder, said this year’s expo drew in twice as many attendees as last spring’s inaugural event.

“When we first opened up, people were excited and ready to see what our students have been working on all year. We had a line,” he said.

Johnson said this year’s expo was about more than showing senior projects. For him, it’s about an exchange of ideas.

“This allows students to see projects from other disciplines and to see how their work might fit those projects. For example, I’m working with wind turbines and my project is oriented towards mechanical engineering. There are a lot of electrical components though, and so someone with an electrical engineering background can put their knowledge to work when they’re exploring my project,” he said.

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This year’s expo also invited member of industry to review research and serve as project judges.

“It’s a good way to build connections and show what we’re doing here on campus,” said Johnson. “Hopefully, we’re also finding research that matches the interests of companies in the region. Together, maybe we can make something great out of these projects.”

Alan Comer, ‘03, was one of these attending industry professionals. A graduate of WVU Tech’s mechanical engineering program, Comer works for a Denmark-based oilfield manufacturing company out of Cranberry, Pennsylvania. He also serves on the mechanical engineering department’s advisory board at Tech. He said he was impressed with the work of the students featured in the expo.

“They’ve been great. What I’ve learned as an engineer is that communication skills can be as important as your engineering skills when it comes to these projects. This is enabling the students to go out and present their work in an intelligent way. It’s valuable practice,” he said.

Hannah Atkins, a junior chemical engineering major from Sissonville, West Virginia, presented her group’s research on methods for separating natural gas byproducts. She agreed with Comer on the value of practicing the project pitch.

“It’s important because if I can’t sell my project or myself as an engineer to a company, I’m going to miss out on opportunities. Part of my career has to be explaining and justifying my work and how the projects I want to work on will have a positive impact on the people around me,” she said.

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The expo wrapped up with a social event and an awards ceremony. Civil engineering students Joseph Caudill, James Ramsey and Michael Powell received the “Most Visually Appealing” award for their concrete canoe presentation. Mechanical engineering majors Joel Kouakou, Jon Ball, Brendon Rankou and Jerod Taylor’s “Design and Fabrication of Microalgae CO2 Capture System” won “Most Outstanding Content.” Electrical engineering students Daniel Noel and Dwight Wilson received the “Most Innovative” award for their automotive waste energy systems project. The “Best Presentation” went to engineering technology students Ronald Harper, Lionel Waters and John Canteberry for “Sludge Removal Efficiency.”

Mechanical engineering professor Dr. Farshid Zabihian served as a faculty advisor for the expo. He said that the event’s success stemmed from the fact that it’s student-driven.

“This is all student work and it’s led by students. They do everything. It is a young event, but even in the second year, we’re so very happy with the way it has been done,” he said. “We’re definitely on the right track.”

Johnson organized the expo alongside WVU Tech students Alex Perry and Yazid Amrani. Johnson graduates this spring, but said he’s excited to see how the expo will grow in the coming years.

“We’re hoping to make this a permanent thing and even to draw in non-engineers and the community. We’d like to see this grow into something amazing,” he said.

Check out photos from the expo on Flickr.