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      Students showcase skills at Senior Design Expo

      A rite of passage into the career world for many college seniors is constructing the perfect device for their senior design project.

      Today at Michigan Tech, hundreds of seniors gathered for the Design Expo to showcase their creations to their peers and regional companies. From brand new gadgets to revised originals, an array of creations by engineering students was all on display.

      Students worked in teams to design, develop, and construct their projects to meet various needs, whether medical, like Melissa Mackâ??s twist on a walking cane.

      â??We developed a cane that has prongs that increases stability over two steps of stairs with a greater base of support,â?? she said.

      Or an automotive design like Christian Vreelandâ??s teamâ??s revised Dodge Ram tailgate, which has a compartment feature added.

      â??The purpose is both to cut weight from the original tailgate to help meet fuel economy standards increases and to add in an accessory design,â?? said Vreeland.

      Shawn Troyer and his team modified a basic desk chair to raise and lower automatically for a woman in the community who needs mobility assistance in her home.

      â??She needs a chair because she has mobility issues, and sheâ??s going to be using it in her everyday life doing some kitchen activities and household chores,â?? said Troyer.

      Representatives from regional companies were on hand to judge the studentsâ?? work on concept, content, and presentation and to scout future employees as well.

      Director of research and development at Northwire, Inc., Paul DePratter, said he was impressed with the studentsâ?? creativity.

      â??They have been very innovative using some of the latest technologies and materials, and I saw a real enthusiasm among the students,â?? he said.

      The students gained experience not only in presentation skills, but in working with new materials and carrying out a project from start to finish.

      â??We got a good feel for how long prototyping takes, or custom machining takes, when youâ??re doing limited-scale, first-time runs and everything,â?? said Paul Strzalkowski, whose team designed a tug for the universityâ??s Great Lakes Research Center.

      â??We got a lot of experience working with concurrent engineering, two different teams, intercommunication, everything like that,â?? added Vreeland.

      After the Expo, some projects will be handed down to next yearâ??s seniors to revamp, while others will be put to use right away.

      Students agreed, though, that the long hours and hard work put into their designs will prove to be helpful in the long-run.

      â??We really wanted to just do something that would benefit somebody in the community and give us some real engineering experience that we can take with us,â?? said Troyer.