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HCC's Engineering Projects Night Showcases Up and Coming Student Innovators

Piloting a drone just got a lot easier for people with physical disabilities, thanks to four Howard Community College engineering students.

As part of a semester-long project for their Introduction to Engineering class, freshmen Kwabla Boateng, Justin Brandt, Abdulla Hijazi and Neel Patel designed an accessible drone controller that resembles a joystick and the controllers used on power wheelchairs.

Using just two fingers, users can move the drone backwards, forwards, up, down, left and right. Typical drone controllers require use of two hands.

“It started out as an engineering project, and it became a product that could really have an impact,” Brandt said.

The group’s Accessible Drone Piloting project is one of more than a dozen featured during the 2021 Fall Engineering Projects Night on December 9 in Science, Engineering and Technology Building.

It’s the first time HCC has held the event since fall 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mark Edelen, associate dean of the SET division and a professor of physics and engineering at Howard Community College.

More than 70 students participated, with projects ranging from a remote braking system for bicycles and a submerged floating tunnel to an open source COVID-19 pulmonary respirator and a campus game room screen protector.

“We ask students to put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into these projects, and we have high expectations,” he said. “They always rise to the occasion. This is a night they can show off and celebrate while seeing other projects that inspire them.”

The event is sponsored by BGE, which awards a $2,500 scholarship for Best Presentation and a $1,500 scholarship for Best Build. Scholarships are divided equally among group members. Audience Choice award winners receive trophies.

Best Build, which is based on time spent in the engineering lab and overall craftsmanship, went to Automated Chess created by Aaron Rubeling, Chris Krupinski, Darrel Bossman, Elissa Cariaga and Kevin Holderman. The game allows a human player to compete against a computer on an actual chess board that uses coding and magnets to move chess pieces.

Each team member focused on a different part of the project, which took more than three months to complete, Cariaga said.

“We used a 3D printer for the chess pieces, LED lights, laser cutting, coding, CAD and construction on this project,” Cariaga said. “And we learned that a big part of engineering is collaborating and learning from each other.”

The Audience Choice award went to Rotational Trainer, created by Didier Estrada, Ryan Coil, Brandon Franco and Manyaka Anjorin. The group designed the trainer with physical therapy in mind to improve the strength of golf swings and enhance stability.

Best Presentation went to the Accessible Drone Piloting team. While the students were excited at their win, their work is far from done. They’ve promised to create another controller for their official product tester, Buz Chmielewski. Chmielewski, an occupational therapy instructor who has impaired movement in both of his hands, mastered use of the controller within minutes of using it for the first time.

“I told them, ‘Now I want one of my own!’” he said.

Topics: Science & Tech
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