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May 04, 2016

Students show off design solutions

Seniors at the Hajim School showcased more than 70 projects during the annual Design Day.

student placing braille paper in lightbox
Seventy-two percent of people with diabetes will develop diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that causes numbness in the hands and feet. For individuals who are also visually impaired, the onset of severe diabetic neuropathy means they can read neither visually nor tactilely, through the use of braille. A team of seniors—Christina Amaral, Emma Gira, Emily Kwan, Kevin McAlpine (pictured), and Matthew Mender— have worked to develop a portable device that will translate the braille documents of a person with diabetic neuropathy into audio. The device can also be used by sighted people who need to read braille documents—for example, teachers who need to read the work of their visually impaired students.


students around a cook stoveBiomedical engineering seniors (from left) YeJin Jeong, Nikki Sroka, Jessica He, and Adam Langenbucher have developed an adjustable “skirt” that will fit around any size pot used atop a portable cooking stove. The skirts help concentrate the rising heat, increasing fuel efficiency.

Greater fuel efficiency means families spend less time or money cutting or buying fuel, which lessens deforestation. It also means less time spent standing over the stove, reducing exposure to emissions. The students are working with alumnus Boston Nyer ’08, cofounder of BURN, a company that manufactures the cooking stoves sold to families in Kenya. Right now, skirts come in fixed sizes. “Research has shown there is an ideal distance between the skirt and the wall of the pot at which efficiency is highest, and that’s about 10 millimeters,” Sroka says. Hence the need for a skirt that could be adjusted to that ideal distance with any of several different-sized pots a family might have already.


hands setting up equipment in a hoodEach Wednesday this semester, mechanical engineering seniors Christopher Dawson, Victor Montano, Cleopatra Saira, and Allesha Seenauth would go on Skype to give a progress report to Elsie Kaufmann, head of the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Ghana.

Kaufmann, who is interested in tissue engineering, has asked the team to come up with a way to convert the starch of cassava root, which is commonly found in Kenya, into submicron fibers that could serve as temporary supports for cell attachment and tissue growth.

For Seenauth, it was her first opportunity to pursue her interest in nanoscale research. The use of cassava also intrigued her; her parents are from Guyana, where cassava is also an important part of the culture.

“This is taking a technology and packaging it to create an opportunity that wasn’t there before,” says Chris Muir, associate professor of mechanical engineering, who teaches the senior design course. “That’s the great thing about engineering—that ability to take a technology and bring it into a situation where it otherwise wouldn’t be available.”


students around a large parabolic lens
An interdepartmental team of optical and mechanical engineering students is working to improve professor Wayne Knox’s solar concentrator—a concave mirror that focuses sunlight on a small area. It could be used to sterilize drinking water and can serve as a solar oven in developing countries.

“The challenge we’re try to solve with our new frame design is how get rid of the wrinkles around the edge that plagued the original design,” says Sean Reid ’16, an optical engineering student. “The wrinkling warped the parabolic shape and caused the spreading of the spot size. What we’re doing with our frame is to apply a clamping force from the top and bottom around the edge of the mylar surface rather than stretching it as much. It looks like the spot size is smaller.” Team members include (from left) Fifi Song, Michal Adar, Reid, Jacob Blacksberg, Daniel Morgen, and Henry Pablo. Not pictured: Michael Dupuis and Bryan Maas

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