Engineering Students Place First at Capstone Design Conference

UTDesign Capstone project

The winning team at the Student Project Competition at the national Capstone Design Conference were, from left: Ryan Doleh, Tyler Markle, Yara Almubarak, Bilal Quadri, Melanie Maurer and Rashed Rihani. The seniors developed a device to aid in the treatment of fecal incontinence.

A University of Texas at Dallas engineering team received top honors in the student project competition at the 2016 Capstone Design Conference. It was the second time in a row that UT Dallas has taken first place.

Three of the four UT Dallas teams from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science that submitted projects this year were accepted as finalists, the most of any university.

The winning team of mechanical and biomedical engineering seniors — Ryan Doleh, Tyler Markle, Yara Almubarak, Bilal Quadri, Melanie Maurer and Rashed Rihani — topped competitors from 21 other schools, including Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon University.

Their project, completed for their senior capstone design course in the UTDesign program, was to develop a device to aid in the treatment of fecal incontinence. Their prototype device injects a silicon-like substance to help regain control of the bowels without the need for a surgeon or anesthesia. The project was sponsored by CerSci Therapeutics.

Dr. Robert Hart, clinical associate professor of mechanical engineering and capstone course instructor in the Jonsson School, said the project was especially beneficial for students because it required them to work with others from outside of their engineering discipline.

Be a UTDesign Sponsor

To sponsor a UTDesign team, contact Iram Hasan, director of corporate relations for the Jonsson School, at [email protected] or 972-883-3533.

“Learning to work in a multidisciplinary team — mechanical and biomedical engineering in this case — is an important professional skill and represents one of the key ways that corporate-sponsored UTDesign projects help to prepare our graduates for the workplace,” Hart said.

“This project also demonstrates how UTDesign can be a valuable resource for startups. The team’s design brought CerSci’s idea to life in the form a proven prototype that has the potential to have a significant impact on health care.”

The winning team worked closely with CerSci mentor Dr. Lucas Rodriguez MS’14, PhD’16 on the project, with assistance from faculty advisor and bioengineering senior lecturer Dr. Steven Foland BS’08, MSEE’10, PhD’13, and the UTDesign staff.

Rodriguez, who earned his master’s and PhD in biomedical engineering at UT Dallas, said the team’s winning project was so impressive that CerSci has “spun out a separate business and invited team leader Tyler Markle to help co-found the company.”

“The students hit the ground running and really found some things that we never expected about our intended product,” Rodriguez said. “We believe that this project will find its way out of the lab and into the clinic very soon.”

CerSci Therapeutics was co-founded by UT Dallas faculty members Dr. Ted Price and Dr. Greg Dussor, associate professors of neuroscience in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Markle said the winning project included the novel use of 3-D printing for rapid prototyping to determine various properties of the device. A preliminary patent is now being sought for the device, which will undergo FDA testing soon.

Besides the winning project, two other teams from UT Dallas were finalists.


Wearable Hydration Device

UTDesign Capstone project

From left: Seniors Jose Rodriguez, Dominic Cassaro, Parul Mahajan, Tyler Brune, Clyde Fomunung and Martin Savard-Rosas created a device that calculates a user’s hydration level.

One finalist team presented a noninvasive wearable hydration device that calculates a user’s hydration level. Biomedical and electrical engineering seniors Tyler Brune, Clyde Fomunung, Parul Mahajan, Dominic Cassaro, Alex Rodriguez and Martin Savard-Rosas developed an integrated circuit to measure how well the body impedes electric current flow, which can be related to the amount of water present in the body.

The device sends real-time data wirelessly to the user’s phone, where an algorithm converts raw data into total body water percentage.

“A normal person is chronically dehydrated throughout the day. We wanted to target this device for the elderly and for athletes, who are especially at risk for dehydration,” said team leader Mahajan.

The team worked with Maxim Integrated mentor Brian Vasquez on the project, with assistance from faculty advisor Dr. Shalini Prasad, associate professor of bioengineering.


Wireless Alarm Earbuds

The other finalist team from UT Dallas presented a novel communication method for wireless alarm earbuds.

UTDesign Capstone project

From left: Electrical engineering students Jeremy Hass, George Fleming, Daniel Robert Noel and Joe Butler designed an earplug that serves as a personal alarm clock. Their project was a finalist in the Capstone Design Conference.

The electrical engineering team of Daniel Robert Noel, George Fleming, Joe Butler and Jeremy Hass presented a project that shows the use of a smartphone speaker to send an alarm signal from an audio device to a microphone receiver in a wearable earpiece, allowing for a low-cost, low-power alternative to traditional wireless technologies.  

The device would serve as a personal alarm clock in an earplug using high-frequency signals that would not disturb anyone else. It also has an active noise cancelling feature that can be turned on and off.

“Most of us can’t hear these high-frequency sounds, but a microphone in the earplug could pick it up,” Fleming said.

The project was student-initiated; team members worked with faculty advisor Dr. John Hansen, Distinguished Chair in Telecommunications and associate dean for research in the Jonsson School.

Every engineering and computer science senior at UT Dallas is required to complete a team-oriented capstone project in the UTDesign program. Projects are proposed, sponsored and mentored by companies, and give students hands-on design experience and prepare them for the work world.

Rod Wetterskog, assistant dean of corporate relations for the Jonsson School and UTDesign program coordinator, works closely with corporate sponsors to foster mentor-student relationships and increase visibility for the program.

“When you combine great students, great company sponsors with real-world challenges, and great faculty mentors dedicated to coaching students to success, you obtain great results. This is why UT Dallas is doing so well in these national competitions. It’s a perfect partnership that benefits all,” Wetterskog said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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