First-Year Engineering Majors Showcase Their Designs at OH WOW!

By Chris McBride

First-year Youngstown State University engineering majors set up shop to test their prototype designs in the OH WOW! Science Center in downtown Youngstown on Thursday.

This was the 4th collaboration between YSU and OH WOW! for students to showcase their prototypes.

For two weeks, students were divided up into groups in their 1560 first-year engineering courses. From there, they were given a budget of $25 per student and used that money to gather supplies, design and then built their prototypes.

Robert Dixon, a mechanical engineering major, worked with his group to create what they called “Visualizing Gravity.”

Using a black pair of spandex expanded over a cylinder shaped frame with weights in the middle, kids place tiny orange balls onto the surface and watch it orbit around the weight.

“Basically by having a heavy object [weights] placed in the center made of spandex with lighter objects being thrown in and around it, we get to see how they interact,” Dixon said.

He said the building process took him and his group only three or four days.

This was one of 45 to 50 prototypes on display throughout the day.

Joseph Bonanni, a chemical engineering major, said his group used modern technology to create their design.

“We used 3D printing of poly lactic acid and designed parts through a modeling software before printing them, which is something we learned in our first year,” Bonanni said.

The group created a plastic launcher with a pump attachment used to generate air into the launcher to then fire projectiles into wooden block structures set up by the kids.

“We wanted to make something durable and really engaging. One thing kids are in engaged by are projectiles moving so we stuck with that idea,” Bonanni said.

Not all designs went as planned at the showcase.

This was the case for Jeremy Marangoni, a mechanical engineering major, whose group created what they named “Hydro-Speaker.”

The objective was to create the illusion of a stream of water being frozen using the vibrations from speakers and flashing LED lighting. The idea didn’t go quite as planned as the speakers weren’t loud enough to garner the intended reaction.

Luckily, the showcase wasn’t the final chance for students. After the event, students have two weeks to improve upon their designs for their final presentation.

Once they get things fixed, Marangoni said he feels his group’s idea will get the kids’ attention.

According to electrical engineering professor Edward Burden, the event was more for students to gain feedback and advice on their designs.

“Some students’ projects will have more work than others to work out. They’ll have almost no budget or maximize what they have to make it work,” he said. “It forces them to make engineering decisions.”

After modifications, the students’ projects will be considered by OH WOW! for a potential spot in its exhibit.