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News & Stories: 2007-08

Senior engineers showcase designs April 28, 2008

Rhythm Reloaded team
Rhythm Reloaded

As Calvin’s graduating student engineers gear up for their annual Senior Projects Night, they’re putting in a lot of hours in the college’s Engineering Building.

"The number of pizza boxes increases exponentially,” commented David Wunder, a Calvin engineering professor and senior projects coordinator. “They’re there all hours —and the level of excitement also increases exponentially.”

The 24th-annual event, a showcase of design projects by Calvin College graduating student engineers, takes place Saturday, May 3, 2008. It features an open house, where family, friends, faculty and other well-wishers can tour (with punch in hand) the senior design projects on display in both wings of the college’s Engineering Building. The graduating engineers will have their annual banquet at 6:30 p.m. in the Commons Dining Hall and will formally present their projects at 7:30 p.m. in the Engineering Building.

The evening highlights the projects it has taken senior engineering teams an entire academic year to produce. The teams—comprised of student engineers from the electrical, civil and environmental, electrical and computer, mechanical and chemical concentrations—form early in fall semester and conceive a project to address specific engineering challenge. By spring, the teams have moved their concept from the feasibility stage to a working prototype.

This year’s 16 projects include everything from a hovercraft to improved drinking and wastewater treatment facilities for an Ecuadoran village to an electronic stethoscope.

Rhythm Reloaded

The team producing the stethoscope—dubbed Rhythm Reloaded and composed of electrical and computer engineers Nate Brinks, Andy Gabler, Ben Moes and David van Geest— is building a prototype that is a significant innovation on existing electronic models. “What a lot of existing electronic stethoscopes do is give the look and feel of the traditional models,” said Gabler. “We’ve broken away from that.”

electronic stethoscope.jpgThe Rhythm Reloaded stethoscope, consisting of a wireless chest piece, USB output and headphones, will record and store sounds from a patient’s body in high-quality audio files that are transferable to a computer. The stethoscope will allow a doctors and nurses to e-mail their patients’ heart body sounds to specialists. The new equipment would also allow health professionals to archive readings from a patient, allowing them to track the change in body sounds over time.

The team got some unexpected advance buzz for their project when van Geest posted an article about it on Slashdot, a technology-focused Web site. “I never expected that the post would get picked up by other Web sites—but it did,” he said.

Fuel From the Fryer

Another senior design team has transformed an unlikely resource salvaged from the Calvin campus into a fuel source. Rinnova, composed of mechanical engineers Adebo Alao, Joshua Harbert and Fred Thielke and chemical engineers Mitch Kenyon and Christian Ocier—is converting waste vegetable oil from the college dining halls into biodiesel fuel.

“We can make diesel fuel at half the price you can get it at the pump, and it doesn’t put out as many carcinogens and other pollutants as other diesels do,” said Thielke, adding that a California producer of biodiesel has shown an interest in Rinnova’s product.

Whatever the focus of a senior design project, industry, third-world-development or civic improvement, each is considered a “kingdom” project, said Wunder. “We’re preparing our engineers for a lifetime of kingdom service. It doesn’t matter whether they’re headed for an office in Chicago or a village in Madagascar. If we’re responding to God’s call on our lives, then what we do as engineers has that kind of value and meaning.”

Last year better than 90-percent of the students who graduated from the engineering program had landed jobs upon graduation. “Our engineers tend to do well, whether it’s grad school or a first job,” said Wunder. “But we’re excited for our grads once they’re  well into their careers because that’s when their talent, education, and experience really coalesce. Calvin College prepares engineers for a lifetime of service—it’s over their entire careers that we see Calvin engineers truly shine”. 

Wunder is looking forward to Senior Projects Night. “It’s a great time to celebrate.  We see family and friends. We see alumni. We see colleagues from other departments,” he said. “For our students, it’s a culmination of a tremendous amount of work, frustration, joy and perseverance that results in wonderful projects and a smashing success of an evening.”

Read about all of the senior engineering design projects.

~written by senior writer Myrna Anderson