Senior engineering students from all five departments - Chemical and Materials Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering - exhibited two semester's worth of work to local students, business executives and community members at the annual Senior Capstone Innovation Day May 5, 2017 in the Lawlor Events Center.
"Innovation Day is very important for the engineering students," said President Marc Johnson. "This presentation of the senior capstone projects really gives the students an opportunity to apply the knowledge they have learned in their engineering curriculum, build a project, and have the confidence that they can create something using the skills and education they gained in college."
The engineering students began arriving as early as 7 a.m. to start setting up their projects and displays in booths around the upper concourse before local K-12 students began to pour out of buses and swarm the exhibits before 10 a.m.
"Talking to the kids has been a blast!" said Luke Sorenson, a senior engineering student. "Sharing my project with them has been an amazing experience. They are incredibly intelligent and receptive to the ideas we are presenting here today."
At around 10 a.m. the College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis gave an opening welcome, followed by a few words from President Marc Johnson, Provost Kevin Carman, Vice President for Research and Innovation Mridul Gautam, and Leonard Lafrance of Sierra Innovations.
"This event is about two core functions of our college - innovation and outreach," College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis said. "We are putting together the capstone projects of our students. In these projects they demonstrate the part of their education that teaches them to identify problems that society is facing and come up with designing solutions, implementing them and presenting them. At the same time we reach out to the community - industry and K-12. We expose engineering, including its many opportunities as well as its impact on society to our local population."
Stan Thomas, executive vice president for marketing/competitive expansion at the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, gave the keynote speech. Thomas spoke of the need for all types of engineers in Nevada because of the rapid growth of positions with tech companies moving from California to Nevada for lower manufacturing costs.
"We need more people like the University students we saw here today," said Thomas. "This field is growing dramatically. These are the jobs of the future. We are really excited that technology companies are coming to Northern Nevada. Students are gaining the opportunity to work locally, in a nice community, with short commutes, good quality of life and a fairly inexpensive cost of living when compared to California."
"The quality of students that are coming out of the College of Engineering is being recognized all over the country today, which is exciting. Graduates from this University are being hired and the companies are loving the quality of their work - which helps us recruit more future students. I do not see the industry slowing down anytime soon."
In the afternoon, industry representatives and community members arrived to discover the various cutting-edge technology the students had spent the last year working on.
Most of the capstone projects had visual elements, like robots, VR headsets and displays, or beakers and blocks of concrete adorning some tables, but quite a few of the projects just had a display-screen to demonstrate their software application. While seemingly simple, these applications are what Thomas thought could be the easiest projects to get to market in what he referred to as the ongoing "fourth industrial revolution." He believes that a lot of change is happening to create a more digitized world, citing examples such as Uber being the largest modern taxicab service even though it is all based upon a mobile application.
"We created our mobile application starting with finding a need we could fulfill," said Brett Knadle, a senior engineering student presenting at the event. "General Electric engineers needed an application that could work directly with their database and metadata so they could work remotely without having to constantly go back to a computer. It may sound boring, but for GE engineers it could become an invaluable tool."
Engineering Innovation Day is hosted annually by the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. More information regarding the event can be found on the Innovation Day website; research and outreach programs can be found on the College of Engineering website.