‘I built that’

Projects completed by ESE seniors include assisting with the development of a robot that will automate the surgery of cyborg locusts. File photo

Each year, McKelvey Engineering students at Washington University in St. Louis culminate their studies with a semester-long project that seeks to solve a central problem in their field.

As the semester wraps up, we spoke with a few seniors in electrical & systems engineering to find out what they learned from the experience.

Jason Christal and Anton Salem

Project title: Neurosurgery of Explosive Detecting Locusts via a Novel Automated Robotic Manipulator

What new skills or valuable experiences did you gain in this class?

Christal: I gained a lot of experience with computer-aided design through Solidworks, as well as learning how to 3D-print parts. Additionally, I learned more about the integration of software and hardware, and getting things to work together properly. The most valuable experience for me throughout this process was the opportunity to rapidly prototype the project and build things quickly.

Salem: Capstone was easily the most useful course that I took at WashU because it taught me how to truly problem solve and figure something out. It's an amazing feeling when your project starts coming together and you can say, "I built that."

What advice do you have for future ESE senior design students?

Christal: Getting started early is super helpful. Ask people for help when you're confused. We had many problems with the mechanics of our manipulator, so we would ask colleagues or professors for assistance. This is the one class in college you really should not focus on the grade. It's an opportunity to learn new things and build something you find interesting or are passionate about.

Salem: Pick a project that you are passionate about. Capstone is a time to deeply explore a technology or problem. If you work hard to identify a project that interests you, it's far more likely that you develop a great project and have fun.

Serra Erdamar

Project title: Using Artificial Neural Networks to Predict Quantum Entanglement in Quantum Systems

What new skills or valuable experiences did you gain in this class?

This was my first time training a machine-learning model using Tensorflow in Python. It's a very accessible language and I'm grateful to have been able to apply it to a quantum systems-based project.

What challenges did you face in completing your project?

Deciding what my specific goal for a 14-week project was difficult. I ran into an unexpected error with the code I downloaded from an important paper, which made me reevaluate my problem statement to include implementing a gap the paper discussed.

Dean Choi

Project title: An FPGA Implementation of a Spiking Neural Network

What challenges did you face in completing your project?

We purchased analog-to-digital converters (ADC) and digital-to-analog converters (DAC) from Digikey, but the datasheet for these parts that we bought didn't have all the details we needed to integrate them into our project. We had to spend lots of time searching how to solve problems with ADC and DAC through other people's experiences online.

What advice do you have for future ESE senior design students?

Always plan ahead, and don't underestimate your schedule. If you think something is doable in one day, plan to work on it for at least a week.

Yuqi Liu

Project title: Design of an Integrated Topological Circuit Array

What challenges did you face in completing your project?

My inexperience with the design library complicated the design process to the point that I needed to frequently and carefully go through the design manual to spot where I went wrong.

What advice do you have for future ESE senior design students?

Definitely try something you are interested in and make sure to devote enough time to it.