5th Annual Senior Design Expo Showcases 10 Electrical Engineering Projects on Climate Change, Music Technology, and More

Columbia Engineering’s 5th Annual Senior Design Expo showcased 60 projects, including 10 projects that involved 41 students from the Electrical Engineering Department. With topics ranging from climate change to music technology, from cybersecurity to robotic systems, and more, these finished projects culminated a yearlong process of learning, testing, discovery, and team building. Some projects included collaborations with the Computer Science, Earth and Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering Departments.

The Senior Design Expo 2018, held at Columbia University’s Roone Arledge Auditorium in May 2018, attracted hundreds of visitors, including faculty, deans, staff, students, friends, and industry leaders. The students’ enthusiasm about their projects was contagious. Students demonstrated through their work that engineering is at the center of cutting-edge technology!

A world of possibilities opened up to students as they applied what they learned in the classroom to everyday life problems. Students worked closely with their faculty advisors throughout the development of their projects, from design to implementation. This process provided students with opportunities to be creative and solution-oriented, thus propelling them to be successful in their professional lives as they graduate from the Department of Electrical Engineering.

A special thanks to students and their faculty advisors, as well as everyone who attended the Expo!

Learn more about the Electrical Engineering projects:

The Butterfly Effect (1st Prize, Electrical Engineering)
Professor David Vallancourt

Louisa Sainz de la Maza and Saarthak Sarup addressed the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) and related security challenges by building upon new concepts on chaotic circuits for encryption. Their project uses a Lorenz Attractor circuit and RF transceiver to create a low power and low cost solution amenable to the constraints of IoT. The Lorenz Attractor acts as the transmitter’s random number generator. A slave circuit in the receiver then decodes the message by synchronizing with the master Lorenz circuit. This PCB implementation points to IC realization for a practical system.



Real-Time Music Harmonizer (2nd Prize, Electrical Engineering)
Professor David Vallancourt

D’Arcy Anderson, Rebecca Murray, Anita Rao, Cincy Xiao, and Jimmy Ye built a real-time harmonizer that allows one person to produce multiple notes at once. The harmonizer takes in a voice signal, and outputs the original and pitch shifted voice signals in real time. The device produces a selection of harmonies the user can choose from, including thirds and fifths above or below the original note. Digital logic is then used to generate the notes to harmonize with the input signal. The user has the option to add a reverb and/or phaser effect to the output.



Discrete Alcohol Sensor (3rd Prize, Electrical Engineering)
Professor David Vallancourt

Avery Feit, Miguel Gutierrez, Garrett Kaighn, Bernard Nguyen, and Sarah Thompson built a portable, hand-held, capacitive alcoholmeter that measures the alcohol content of a variety of mixed drinks. The device measures the alcoholic content of beverages based on the difference in relative permittivity between water and ethanol. A dedicated circuit connected to a probe submerged in alcoholic beverages outputs a DC voltage corresponding to the detected probe capacitance. Then, after converting this output to a digital signal and referencing it to a lookup table, a microcontroller reports the ABV value for the beverage on a small OLED display.


Electric Drivetrain
Professor Matthias Preindl

Albert Gao, Ibrahima Niang, Dawei Ren, and Xuexin Wei created a concept design of a high-performance drivetrain for electric vehicles (EVs) following the specifications and requirements of the FSAE Electric Vehicles Competition. An electric motor, instead of a gasoline engine, powers the environmentally friendly EV. The motor receives its energy from a lithium battery, which is regulated by a motor controller based on input from a human driver.



RockEm SockEm Robots
Professor Fred Stolfi

Joseph Campo, John Cervone, Elon Gordon, James Harrison, and Nikiander Pelari built a boxing game with two colorful robots connected to sensor packs that create a real-life and dynamic experience for the game users. Two players face off in the ring, where both players control their own robots by placing sensor packs on their wrists and heads. For instance, when one player throws a punch, that player’s robot mimics her movement. Players can also control their robots’ defensive moves by dodging left, right, forward, and back. The losing bot’s head pops up when a player scores enough points against his or her opponent.


Autonomous Fruit Fly Robots
Professor Aurel A. Lazar

Amol Kapoor and Seungmin Lee designed an autonomous robotic system to understand how the fruit fly brain operates. The autonomous robotic system consists of a cloud server called NeuroCloud, and remote ground-based robotic modules called FlyRemotes. The NeuroCloud provides computational power for executing computationally demanding tasks such as progressively training a brain circuit model based on information gathered by FlyRemotes. Through multiple experiments, they examined the information processing capabilities of fruit flies’ neural circuitry, and used their findings to determine which fruit fly model has the optimal learning efficacy for a given task.


Automatic Beer Pong Table
Professor David Vallancourt

Ryan Davies, Benjamin Fechter, and Jun Hyek Jang built a beer pong table with LCD screens and ultrasound sensors, which automate several key elements of the game. For example, on startup the cups automatically rise to the surface of the table. Once a ball is fairly scored into a cup, the cup automatically lowers beneath the table. The LCD screens monitor progress for each player.




Professors Mike Massimino, Fred Stolfi, and David Vallancourt

Alexander Colton, Julia Di, Bailey Fryer, Chuck Poklikuha, and Connie Zhang built four small mobile robots capable of dynamically coordinated movement within a controlled arena. Using computer vision through a camera mounted above the arena, a computer controls the robots wirelessly. The robots work together to locate themselves and move in formation, which is useful for navigating obstacles while exploring new terrains.



Lost Item Finder
Professor David Vallancourt

Tianen Chen, Willian Chiu, Tyler Hiller, and Lucas Lalima built a compact GPS tracker that helps people locate stolen or lost large personal valuables, such as backpacks, purses, or musical instruments. The Lost Item Finder device broadcasts its location via public Wi-Fi on a web-based map interface or via Bluetooth by emitting a sound if in close proximity.




Microgrid Design for Hospital Resiliency
Professors Robert Farrauto and David Vallancourt, and Jon Nickerson from National Grid

Lucy Banter, Charles Harper, Rebecca Miller, Varshimi Parthasarathy, Kenneth Spranzo, and Kathy Welter designed a microgrid central controller to help hospitals save lives during power outages. They used pre-existing data to generate load profiles for hospitals of varying sizes. Using a modeling software, the load profiles generated an appropriate resource mix for each scenario. The microgrid central controller has the ability to switch the hospital into islanding mode, minimize non-critical load, and dispatch the most efficient energy resource based on feedback from connected devices.


-By Rosa Fernández

Photo Credit: Timothy Lee

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