2019 AME Senior Project Showcase USC Viterbi seniors show off their final projects for AME 441, testing concepts learned with over 35 real-life applications

On December 6, the USC Viterbi Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering hosted USC’s third annual AME Senior Project Showcase where 137 students enrolled in AME 441 “Senior Projects Laboratory” shared 36 real-world applications created within a semester's time. Topics included: dynamic system suspension, shape memory alloys, aircraft noise reduction, wildfire prevention, coastal bathymetry, marine animal motion and intelligent irrigation.

According to the World Health Organization, there were over 200K new cases of leprosy reported globally in 2018. If left untreated, leprosy can cause the loss of fingers and/or portions of the palm. Today’s prosthetics are extremely capable, but far too expensive for many of those impacted.. This team, which includes USC Viterbi seniors Rachel Fellows, Kyle Krzewski, William Marzella, & Grant Sargent, worked with e-NABLE to create a low-cost, open-sourced, 3D printed prosthetic hand; therefore, organizations like e-NABLE strive to create low-cost, open-sourced, 3D-printed prosthetic hands. Because in leprosy, individuals often lose their fingers due to nerve damage but retain their palms, these hands must be oversized to accommodate large residual palms, creating a heavier, ill-proportioned prosthetic.

Using a more flexible design, the students created this prosthetic design which uses an adjustable sling to allow for more comfort and accommodate different palm geometries at a much lower cost (less than $70 on a first go around) than typical prosthetics.

"We went in with a lot of grand ideas, but there were a lot of unforeseen obstacles. It is the combination of the little things that will kill you. We learned to be diligent with our time and planning, so we had a buffer to account for unexpected complications." - William Marzella, AME senior

Students were instructed, from concept to application, by AME Assistant Professor Charles Radovich, AME Senior Lecturer Matthew Gilpin and AME Doctoral Research Associate David Petty. Student projects were ultimately ranked based on five categories: originality, design, rigor, graphical display and verbal communications. AME faculty, industry professionals and others participated in the judging.

Said Petty: "Engineering design is a collaborative effort and effective communication is a key component taught in the course. This applies not only within each team, but with all stakeholders involved in the project."

From left to right: AME Assistant Professor Charles Radovich, Smith International Professor in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering SK Gupta and AME Senior Lecturer Matthew Gilpin.

In AME 441, every AME/ME/ASTE senior completes a project of their own design. The goal is to experience all the stages of an engineering project from a proposal to final testing while being within a helpful academic environment (and all in only 15 weeks). The AME project showcase is a great opportunity for our students to demonstrate their skills to our industry guests, as well as their peers." - Matthew Gilpin

"The fire prevention system was inspired by the Malibu fires," said AME senior David Kim. The group, which also includes Sophie Fast, Clayton Marceau and Andrew Rooney, shared a common misconception about building damage in wildfires: building loss occurs from direct flame contact. However, volatile winds that accompany wildfires can spread embers up to a mile in any direction. To combat the embers that often fall onto rooftops and end up engulfing homes in flames, the group designed an autonomous system that detects flames using a thermal camera and then targets and puts out the flames using an attached nozzle mechanism. See a video of the system in action below!

This project, "Oscillatory Motion of Flatfish Used to Induce Circulating Flow," was inspired by "Charlie the Catfish," a robotic fish created by the CIA to study the possibility for unmanned vehicles underwater. The students, including Malak Abdullah, Gabriella Dean, Su Min Kim, Alexander S. King, tested various materials to see how well they camouflaged at different frequencies of oscillation. Polyethylene, a material that demonstrates both rigidity and flexibility, was the winner.

In manufacturing, normal flying shears--common industrial tools for cutting a continuous product to a set length at line speed--only work efficiently if you need the same size cut every time. If you need a different size, you either have to create multiple assembly lines or stop the machine and reset it. To improve manufacturing efficiency and lower costs, USC Viterbi students Zongyang Xiang, Brandon Vo, John Dervartanian, Zhenjun Yan created an alternate tool that allows different sizes to be cut on the same assembly line, in a continuous flow.

PIV is a multi-thousand dollar technique involving tracking the position of particles in a fluid flow with a camera to develop velocity flow fields. USC Viterbi seniors Eshaan Agadi, Michael Bauer, Rachael Cardoso, and Karen Zhu created a low cost Particle Image Velocimetry system for collecting boundary layer and cylinder drag data. The students created a version for under $200, which could serve as a very useful diagnostic and educational tool for students. Below is a a video of the flow field captured by their system.
And finally: the Best in Show! Michael Allen, Boris Chan, Ashley Golla, Juliet Mills were ranked highest among the groups for their project "Dynamic Suspension System Utilizing MR Fluid." Inspired by the lack of shock absorption felt across bumpy roads on a skateboard commute into school, the team designed a dynamic suspension system that gathers user data (displacement metric) and uses MR fluid to adjust its magnetic field in order to decrease deck displacement. When applied to personalized transportation, like an electric skateboard, the system allows for vehicles to adapt to bumpy road conditions in real time, allowing for a pretty smooth ride.
"This year has produced the highest quality senior projects I’ve seen in my five years teaching the course. Each year we work to provide more resources to the students and each year the projects are more ambitious, more professional and more successful! I think it’s absolutely essential that students complete a hands-on project before leaving USC. The hardest skill to teach is intuition and the best way to develop one's 'engineering judgement' is to learn by doing." - Matthew Gilpin
Created By
Avni Shah


Akash Sareen