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Senior Design fosters interdisciplinary innovation 

March 24, 2021

Innovative technology will be on display again this year at the annual Senior Design Demonstration DayThe virtual event hosted by NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) will be held Friday, April 23 from 1-4 p.m. Visitors to the website will be able to interact by live video chat with 72 student teams to learn about their innovative senior design projects. 

Senior Design is a two-semester course and the pinnacle learning experience in an engineering student’s undergraduate education. The course brings together concepts and principles learned in the classroom and extends theories into practical use. Students form interdisciplinary teams and get hands-on experience in solving real-world problems, which is the kind of engagement that is the foundation of the curriculum at NIU.  

“The senior design program is a culmination of the learning experiences in our students’ engineering education. They apply the knowledge they acquired in the classroom to bring together concepts, theories, and construct a prototype or process,” said Dean Donald Peterson, Ph.D. of CEET. “They also use problem-solving skills to work on open-ended complex systems, as well as understanding the business of engineering and further developing their practical communication and project management skills. Along the way, they are mentored by faculty and industry professionals, and these projects are often viewed as a student’s first professional achievement.” 

The teams work with industry sponsors to develop prototypes in the creation or enhancement of a product, system, process, automation, algorithm, or smart technology, etcOr they may work with a research organization, such as Fermilab, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Argonne National Laboratory or the Morton Arboretum 

For example, this year, one team is working with the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District to develop a way to identify the presence of COVID in populations through the testing of sewage.  

In addition to the industrysponsored and researchorganization-sponsored teams, there are nine teams that have challenges sponsored by other NIU colleges, 25 projects identified by engineering faculty such as a LEGO brick sorting machine, and nine projects identified by students themselvesOne such project was identified by a student team in the NIU@RVC engineering program. That team is working to develop a less expensive way to roast coffee and has named their team the “Rock Valley Roasters”.  

Three projects were proposed by faculty in the College of Visual and Performing Arts that seek to advance artistry. Two projects involve working with the design of musical instruments. One team is devising ways to forage steel to produce the Trinidadian instrument, the steel drum, while another is working to advance the design of the berimbau, an African guitar-like string instrumentA third team is working on a photography system that would enable individuals with disabilities to practice photography more easily.  

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty member challenged one team to come up with a system to recover liquid fuel from the manufacturing of plastics. And another faculty member challenged a team to develop an unmanned autonomous drone to sample water in Mexican cenotes, which are natural water-filled sinkholes that are typically very difficult to access

Faculty in the College of Education is working with two teams to develop an intelligent stepping exercise mat and a better heart rate monitoring device, while a faculty member in the College of Health and Human Services challenged team to design and build a low-cost calibration device for audiometers  

For more information about CEET, its degree programsthe Senior Design Program and project sponsorship opportunities, visit