Lifesaver? Mechanical engineering students win Senior Design Day prize with gas-sensing robot

CAIDEN teamSenior Design Day at the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology showcases the diversity of the creative work happening within the college while students from all departments revel in end-of-semester energy and the creativity of the bold ideas on display.

Engineering seniors present their design projects to corporate judges, board members from the Engineering Technology Alumni Society (ETAS) and their peers while they compete for bragging rights and prize money. These projects gave students a creative outlet and competitive edge to implement what they learn in the classroom into real-life applications of their design.

The team that captured the attention of everyone present Friday, May 3? The mechanical engineering team “Robotic Mobile Platform, CAIDEN,” whose life-saving invention is a robot whose name stands for “Communicating Autonomous Identifying Device with Environmental Navigator.”

Judges from ETAS were thrilled to award this project as the overall first place winner of the competition.

The team of mechanical engineering seniors was comprised of Jennifer Case, Jacob Benhart, Brian Costello and Alec Fisher, who challenged themselves to create a robotic mobile platform designed to detect harmful gases so that human involvement isn’t required.

CAIDEN!“We split the project into four different categories; chassis, obstacle avoidance, communication system and gas sensor,” Case said. “We’d like to see a version of ‘CAIDEN’ be able to eventually integrate with gas sensors to pull people out of harmful situations. Let’s say there was a natural disaster; instead of sending people in, we would be able to send ‘CAIDEN’ in to see what potential danger areas there are.”

This innovative robotic design became a reality when Case was approached a year in advance by electrical engineering professor Martin Kocanda. “Dr. Kocanda approached me my junior year about designing a robotic platform because he had some gas sensors and he wanted to make a use for them,” Case said.

The students not only were challenged to use these sensors but to design a mechanism that could house them. This was difficult because of all the parts that were needed to construct it, but the team prevailed through the yearlong project.

Students eventually decided that a platform would be the best design route because they believe it will be more marketable than a specialized robot.

“The CAIDEN team performed outstanding development work on the project,” Kocanda said. “CAIDEN has many of the features now in place and has proven feasible. With further work and refinement, a practical search-and-rescue device may become a marketable tool.”

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