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SECS students experience 'taking on the impossible'

Monday, April 28, 2014
SECS students experience 'taking on the impossible'
By Alicia Linn

Seniors in the School of Engineering and Computer Science finished the winter 2014 semester and their undergraduate careers by showcasing their engineering skills. On Thursday, April 17, the Senior Design Showcase was held in the Oakland Center.

As the assignment varies each semester, students had just a few months to collaborate with each other to create a working project. This time around, teams composed of students from each engineering discipline were asked to create a device that could not only sort Skittles by color, but also count them as it did so. Points were given based on the time taken to sort, as well as the accuracy of the sorting and counting. Finally, these factors were considered against the amount of money teams used to put together their machines.

“Skittles are not very conducive to being moved through machinery,” explained Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Mike Latcha, Ph.D.. “We were aware in designing this project that it was an extraordinarily difficult task.”

Of the teams that competed, three teams had what are considered successful runs, and were able to get some of the candy sorted and counted. While there was no clear-cut winner in the competition, Latcha says that the real winners were those who came into the competition with a good attitude and an enthusiasm for the learning process.

For many students, this was the first time they are building something, and not just theorizing about its effectiveness. Working in teams also helps to create a real world experience for the students, who can benefit in a number of ways from going outside of their comfort zones.

In the end, Latcha says, the process to get to the competition was far more important than being the top competitor. “It comes down to taking on projects that look impossible,” he said. “The end result is that students got to learn an awful lot.”