For years, the College of Engineering has strived to support the community it serves. Through K-12 outreach programs, students and faculty deliver engineering lessons to students across the state, and semiannual career fairs allow students to connect with local and international business partners. Meanwhile, students and faculty perform research in conjunction with local agencies to solve problems and foster economic development.
Innovation Day ties these efforts together. Each year, all engineering graduating seniors work in teams on senior capstone projects. Together, they design solutions to real-world problems. From idea to prototype, the process allows students to draw on four years’ worth of engineering coursework to bring theory to life. One of Dean Manos Maragakis’s original visions for the College when he took office, the annual Innovation Day is a showcase of students’ hard work.
“Our students receive a globally competitive engineering education,” Maragakis said. “When they graduate, their hands-on learning experiences have enabled them to move ideas from vision to reality, and their ingenuity, as demonstrated on Innovation Day, is truly remarkable. Engineering is all about innovation and ingenuity, and we are proud of our students’ accomplishments and dedication to improving the world.”
Since its inception in 2014, Innovation Day has been free and open to the public in Lawlor Events Center. Students from K-12 classrooms join industry representatives and the community to view student demonstrations, providing an opportunity for graduating engineering students to meet potential employers while inspiring the next generation of engineers. Student projects often receive industry sponsorship, ensuring they have direct applicability to the needs of employers in their disciplines. To keep this important tradition alive while respecting gathering guidelines, this year’s event went virtual.
On April 30, the College of Engineering launched a website with project descriptions from all 105 student teams, along with lightning talks from each team. Seven engineering disciplines were represented, and projects ranged from novel air filtration systems to all-in-one baby bottles that mix and heat formula correctly to a robot docent project that allows museums to facilitate socially distanced viewing opportunities.
“While it is a challenge to move an event from in-person to virtual, our students and capstone instructors not only adapted to but thrived in the new format,” Associate Dean of the College of Engineering Indira Chatterjee said. “In addition, the virtual delivery had unexpected benefits: we were able to reach more K-12 students from all over the state and employers and communities around the world.”