Summer Break or Summer Project?

Posted on Thursday, September 21st, 2023

Written by Elizabeth Thomson

Three male students standing together outside at event, smiling to camera
Chase Keeler, Cameron Bauman, Matthew Salazar

This past summer three computer engineering students who had just completed their first year decided to take advantage of their free time to explore a self assigned project.

Cameron Bauman, Chase Keeler and Matthew Salazar wanted to test out what they learned and challenge themselves. Over three months they worked hard to design, prototype and build a wireless gesture-controlled robotic hand with multiple functions and a screen with a live feedback display. Curious to understand the project and these student’s motivation we thought we would ask a few questions. Cameron took the lead and shared their experience. 

1.Tell us about your “self-assigned” summer project?

The robotic hand fully consists of 3D-printed parts that we designed in SolidWorks that house the hardware and microcontrollers responsible for controlling the servos in the hand as well the LCD screen. It also includes a custom wearable glove with flex sensors on each finger integrated into a circuit controlled by an Arduino Nano with a radio transmitter. The user has the ability to control the robotic hand with the glove, so their motions are mirrored by the robot. The user also can toggle between modes wirelessly and have the robot run through some pre-programmed gestures. This will occur while the LCD provides live feedback of which mode is active, all the servo rotation values, and error handling if there is an issue with the wireless connection.

2.Understanding you were using the project to practice and develop skills, does the project have a potential outcome or practical use in our world?

We had the goal of creating a project that would demonstrate all the skills and theories we learned in the first year to showcase the Engineering and Design process. Additionally, it would highlight the methods that all new technologies and systems are developed with today. The process of designing, prototyping, managing materials + budgets, and testing can be translated into any field or technology.

Our project specifically, could apply to prosthetics and medicine. The system has a foundation that allows for multiple modes, live feedback + connection status, as well as wireless communication which can be easily adapted and integrated. If we substituted the glove controller for an EMG device (which measures electrical activity produced by muscles), the backbone of the system would translate into a great device for amputees. The EMG device would allow the user more intuitive and precise control and in theory, the robotic prosthetic could be designed for any limb on the human body. Another use for this technology could be the development of some kind of assistive device for those with mobility impairment or disabilities. Additionally, gesture-controlled technology and the use of easily controlled robotic systems could be designed for hazourdous tasks which could improve the safety of dangerous work. 

Overall, the key translation from our project to the real world is the Engineering and Design process itself. The device has multiple real-world applications and integrations into other fields and technologies. But we believe the process behind the final product is the most important thing.

3.What drew you to Engineering at Guelph in particular?

One of the main things that led me to Engineering at Guelph was the layout of the co-op program and its available resources. The idea of having multiple co-op work terms spread throughout your undergraduate degree allows you to try different things and gives you the best chance of landing the career you want right out of school - and this is what stuck with me. Another thing that drew me to Engineering at UofG was the various clubs and teams revolving around STEM. My favorite is the UofG robotics team where you will work alongside other Engineering students from all disciplines to test and develop robotic technologies like the Mars rover project. This opportunity not only allowed me to collaborate with other students but also work on impactful projects that could be showcased to potential employers.

4.What would you say to someone in High School thinking about coming to U of G next year?

As a student coming right out of my first year at UofG, I can confidently say that it's been a great experience so far. You will meet lots of great people that share your interests and goals and instantly gain a sense of community and belonging at UofG. Once again, the campus is beautiful and well-maintained, and the number of clubs and social activities you will be exposed to is truly great. University life comes with its challenges and may take some time to adjust to, but I can assure you UofG will fully accommodate you and everything you want to achieve. Overall, Guelph has been a fantastic decision for me, and I am confident you will have a great experience too.

5.What advice do you have for incoming first-year Engineering students?

Matthew's Response:

As a now second-year engineering student, the key components to a successful first year consist of developing study habits that work for you and effectively managing your time. Although the course load is heavy, there are still opportunities to get the best out of student life and your education. 

Chase's Response:

During my initial year of engineering, I gained valuable insights that greatly contributed to my success in organizational skills and productivity. The most crucial advice I would offer to incoming engineering students is to carefully review each course syllabus at the beginning of the academic year and devise a well-structured schedule that includes all assignment and test due dates along with their respective weights. Efficient time allocation is especially important in engineering due to the demanding workload, and it can be challenging to gauge how much time you truly have to prepare for significant tests or assignments.

Cameron’s Response:

For all the incoming first-year Engineering students, I would say some of the most important things to keep in mind are time management and keeping a healthy balance between school and social life. Engineering can be challenging and take some time to get used to the course load. However, as long as you make yourself a solid game plan to achieve your goals, you will be just fine. It's very important to meet other Engineering students and organize study groups so you can problem-solve together. And keeping a balance with social activities and groups offered by UofG will give you a healthy break from coursework.

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