Rocklin, Calif. – Sierra College Mechatronics students applied their skills to develop projects for social good in a capstone class project sponsored by US Bank. At the student presentations on December 8, Adrian Cummings’ “Cycle Light” project won first place, Jamey Shidler was the second place winner for the “Sound Reactive Warning Kit” and John Kurnett placed third for the “Manually Directed Animatronic Hand.”
Kelly Fulfer, Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager, Auburn, US Bank explained that competitions inspire students. “US Bank believes in investing in our community to encourage innovation and drive economic development,” said Fulfer. “Through our partnership with Sierra College, US Bank is funding competitions in certain Business and Mechatronics classes. It was gratifying to see how students developed mechatronic projects that would benefit others in our society.”
Mechatronics systems are pervasive throughout our society and Sierra College students can earn both certificates and degrees in Mechatronics, according to Michael Halbern, Mechatronics Professor, Sierra College. “Turn on the water faucet and the utility company is using mechatronics systems to bring clean water to your home,” said Halbern. “Traffic lights, heating and cooling systems, ATM machines, industrial robots and airport scanners are all Mechatronic systems using electronics, mechanics, hydraulics and pneumatics under computer control.”
First place winner, Cummings explained that he cycles over 1500 miles per year and developed his signal, brake and warning light system to make cyclists more visible and communicate effectively with drivers. “I used Arduino open-source electronic prototyping platform so the design could be customized to different bikes,” said Cummings. “I made prototypes for the cases on the 3D printer at Hacker Lab. It is great that students have access to the makerspace tools 24/7. The people at Hacker Lab were especially helpful and very interested in what I was developing.”
Shidler indicated that his “Sound Reactive Warning Kit” actually started as an idea to light up drums. “I realized that it could pick up ambient noise and give a deaf person warning of a horn or fire alarm,” said Shilder. “The Hacker Lab community gave me a lot of suggestions as I was developing the idea. The makerspace is certainly well equipped.”
An interest in animation was the inspiration for Kurnett’s idea for the Manually Directed Animatronic Hand. “I was looking for a way to capture to natural movement,” said Kurnett. “If a robotic arm could follow the motion of the user’s arm in real-time, it would allow workers to complete tasks that require manual dexterity in hazardous environments without risk.”
While turning his concept into a model, Kurnett indicated that there were multiple times when he was stuck and members of Hacker Lab were forthcoming with ideas. “In addition to advice, I was able to solder and use the 3D printer at Hacker Lab to build this project,” said Kurnett.
The students competing in Mechatronics for Humanity had to use embedded micro controllers in the projects, according to Halbern. “Students designed, built and presented projects that they selected themselves,” said Halbern. “They can take these tangible examples of their skills and knowledge to an interview to demonstrate their capabilities.”