Senior Design Day gives ISYE students real-world, hands-on experience

A photo of the Engineering Building in autumn
College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

For the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISYE) in the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET), Senior Design Day is somewhat different than the other departments. Because ISYE students do not typically design products, the focus of the presentations and work is on improving efficiency, optimization or simplifying complex processes or systems.

The stakes were especially high for senior design this past semester because all five projects from ISYE were sponsored by business and industry in the Northern Illinois region. Each team must work with their sponsor throughout the semester to ensure the desired objective is met positively through a systems approach.

Two Senior Design groups “Improving Caterpillar Medium Wheel Loader Engine Dress Line” and “Designing the New High Volume Stone Assembly Line at SPX Hydraulic Technologies” were particularly successful and tied for first place in the department. Each group was to ensure that their production lines are capable of meeting uncertain customer demands in a timely manner, without increasing their investment, all the while providing a safe working environment.

Caterpillar team: Charles Njaramba, Jeffery Momani and Sean Nanishi
Caterpillar team: Charles Njaramba, Jeffery Momani and Sean Nanishi

Students Jeffery Momani, Charles Njaramba and Sean Nakanishi worked with Caterpillar to analyze the engine dress line to classify, document and offer solutions to decrease safety hazards.

“If the engine isn’t right, then the entire line can be thrown off,” Momani said.

The team introduced several considerable solutions to ensure safety in the working environment and also provided the company with a solution to improve the efficiency of the line from 70 percent to 93 percent.

The other first place team, “Designing the New High Volume Stone Assembly Line at SPX Hydraulic Technologies” was comprised of Ben Tregler and Adrienne Decker. They worked with hydraulic pump manufacturer SPX Hydraulic Technologies to design a new, more efficient linear assembly line resulting in a significant amount of savings from labor costs for SPX, as well as a safer work environment for the operators who meet the daily demand.

SPX Hydraulic Technologies team: Ben Tregler and Adrienne Decker
SPX Hydraulic Technologies team: Ben Tregler and Adrienne Decker

“After running five pilot tests, which were conducted on live assembly lines with the stations divided according to the new design, our data showed that the breakdown of work content and utilization of the current number of operators could meet the current demand in a standard work day,” Tregler said.

Due to the success of this team, SPX approved the data driven analysis and is currently implementing it at their facility. In addition, Tregler was offered and he accepted a full time position at SPX.

Not only does the design project give these hard working students an opportunity to be in a problem-solving and collaborative environment, but it also provides them with hands on experience that preparing them for their professional careers.

“I really learned how much industrial engineering is not about a specific thing, but it’s about analytical, methodological problem solving,” Momani said. “For me, it was mostly about seeing how what I’ve learned here at school can be applied, because it’s not necessarily about taking the formulas that we’ve learned in class or the different tools we’ve learned in class and just making the situation fit to those things.”

Dr. Purushothaman Damodaran, professor and chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at NIU-CEET, said the students’ accomplishments will have a lasting effect.

“Both the teams received rich accolades from the sponsoring companies,” Damodaran said. “As the instructor and mentor for the senior design teams, I am proud of the student’s success. These engagements with the local business units will boost our image and help us to recruit high quality students.”

“The ISYE department is much smaller than the other engineering departments at NIU, so it’s easier to form a one-on-one relationship with the professors and fellow students,” Tregler said. “The department does a great job of preparing its students for the real world by having all senior design projects sponsored by a company, which is an opportunity other engineering students do not have.”

NIU-CEET focuses on students understanding the theories that are presented to them in the classroom and how they can apply the concept to the fast-paced working world, which is why the slogan ‘Bridging Theory With Practice’ is fitting of the college.

“I would like to acknowledge doctors Ehsan Asoudegi, Gary Chen and Reinaldo Moraga for co-advising some of the senior design projects this semester,” Damodaran said. “Having advisors with diverse expertise helped the teams to explore many tools to. Also, on behalf of the students and faculty, I thank the sponsoring companies for working with us to provide the much needed experiential learning to our students and to achieve our goal of bridging theory with practice.”

Senior Design Day was held at the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, on Friday, May 3, in the Pinnacle.

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