Engineering Now .: Volume 4 - Edition 6 .: March 2008

Fourth-year students show their stuff at WEDD

The Software Engineering team accepts their awards after their presentation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March is final design month for fourth-year students. Congratulations go out to all fourth-years for the time and effort put into your projects and presentations. A common comment from spectators this year was that the bar gets raised a little higher each year by the quality of work from the students.

This year’s top designs were as follows:

Al-Karim Moloo
Mechanical and Materials Engineering:
"Roll Former Automation"
Advisor: Professor Ralph Buchal

Al Moloo’s project involves design and implementation of improvements to the production equipment at Conquest Steel, a company that he founded and owns. The largest element of the upgrade was the design of an innovative method of incorporating hole punching into a roll former. The other element was redesigning tooling to allow for faster tooling changes while also changing the shape of the part to allow for better material handling. Al started Conquest Steel in 2003 after graduating from high school, and it has grown to become a leading supplier of rolled steel window wells and siding products in North America. At the same time, he has been a full-time student in the Integrated Engineering program.

Ziqiu Chen, Craig Follett and Rizwan Tejpar
Software Engineering
"STOMP: Student Online Map Platform"
Advisors: Dr. Hamada Ghenniwa and Dr. Jagath Samarabandu

STOMP, the Student Online Map Platform, was designed by students from the Faculty of Engineering's Software Engineering Department. The students' vision was threefold: to increase campus navigability, showcase Western's buildings and geographies, and consolidate a currently fragmented set of existing campus map offerings. STOMP integrates UWO building and path network data into Google Maps, applies a shortest-path algorithm, and aggregates feature inputs as web services. This was not a simple task. Technical challenges associated with creating STOMP include organizing and dealing with mass amounts of unprocessed data, aggregating features via web services, and optimizing algorithms to maximize the system's responsiveness. STOMP required a wide variety of campus stakeholders in its development. Accordingly, the next step in achieving STOMP's vision is to involve additional university stakeholders and overlay their data into the map. In the short-term, STOMP will add to current map services offered by UWO. Although serving UWO-specific needs, STOMP is an extensible platform applicable to all university campuses. Thus, in the medium-term, STOMP aims to be deployed on additional campuses. As a long-term objective, STOMP hopes to consolidate corporate campus data (such as that of Google, Apple, or RIM) onto a single, interactive map. STOMP has overcome significant technical challenges and adds a new comprehensive solution to the way maps are represented, produced and interpreted online.

Eric Longley, Andrew Searle
Electrical and Computer Engineering
"Object Tracking in an FPGA-Based Image Acquisition System"
Advisor: Dr. Hanif Ladak

The Electrical & Computer Engineering team worked in conjunction with IO Industries Incorporated, a London-ON-based manufacturer of digital video recording hardware and software. The products they make are designed to record digital video directly to hard disk drives, so the recording duration of a system is based on the quantity and capacity of the attached hard drives (making recording duration a cost factor in the overall system pricing). When the scene being recorded contains a moving object against a uniformly-contrasting background, and the object is smaller or much smaller than the field of view, the majority of the video being recorded is that of the background of the scene, not the object. The team’s task was to determine which region of each frame of video contained the object, and record only that region to disk; potentially allowing more frames to be saved and the duration of recording to be extended (increasing recording duration without increasing system cost).

They designed an algorithm to analyze each frame of video as it was received from the camera, determine a square region that bounded the object, and output only that region for storage. It was first designed in Visual C++ but ultimately implemented in FPGA logic using VHDL. The result is a system that records to disk, in real-time (not post-processed), at a speed of 70 megapixels/sec.

Julie Graham, Jennifer McDonald, Katie Reipas, Mark Torrie, Gregory Williams (Triton Engineering)
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Wonderland Rd. S. overpass for the 401
Advisors: Dr. Maged A. Youssef, Mr. John Pucchio, P.Eng., Earth Tech Canada Inc.

Triton Engineering was responsible for designing an overpass to carry a planned future extension of Wonderland Rd. S. over the 401. The team had to consider numerous elements in their design. Factors such as ease of construction, minimal traffic disruption on the 401 throughout the construction process, controlling environmental damage to the area and maintaining green space were all important to take into account. All of this had to be done while still staying on budget and getting the best value for the tax-payer's dollar. The aesthetics of the bridge were also important, with the team giving the structure a steam-lined look.

Kevin Fice, Natalie Ann Hodgins, Jonathan Ryer, Joel Spurdza
Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
"Biodiesal Plant for Farm Application"
Advisors: Dr. Anand Prakash and Kai Pisters

Rising oil prices and heightened concerns over global warming has lead to an increased interest in green fuel technologies. In light of this, the CBE team has developed a small scale biodiesel production facility to suit farmers harvesting locally grown soybeans. The goal of their design is to produce enough biodiesel to meet the farming machinery and electrical requirements of the operators needs amounting to 45,000L/year. After considering economic factors, this amount was increased three times such that it will be used as a joint venture with neighbouring farmers. Because the operation is done in batches, sharing of the equipment is possible to decrease downtime without sacrificing production capabilities. The biodiesel production plant will be located in southwestern Ontario, 80 km northeast of London. It is designed to fit within two 40' shipping containers.

The process is designed so that the extraction of soy oil and biodiesel production can be performed independently of one another. This will allow farmers to store soybeans in a silo and extract soy oil as needed. This is necessary because the harvesting time of soybeans occurs in the fall while the biodiesel needs are throughout the year. Another innovative design characteristic of the plant is through the use of a solid catalyst since it can be easily separated from the product stream and reused. The team also decided to utilize ethanol as a reactant instead of methanol, which is traditionally used in transesterficaiton reactions, because ethanol is much less toxic.


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.: Becky Blue
Spencer Engineering Building, Room 2074
Telephone: (519) 850-2917 Fax: (519) 661-3808