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Undergraduate Projects Address COVID-19 Problems

Jun 16, 2020   |   by Julie Bonette

Every term, Dartmouth students in ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering are given their first taste of engineering when they’re asked to work together to create a product that addresses an issue.

This term was no different in that students formed groups, analyzed problems, and then produced physical prototypes. What was different was that students collaborated and presented their projects entirely online. In addition, every project this term adhered to the theme: “Improving Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“Students’ lives were drastically changed in a short period of time, so they were keen to tackle a project that could have an impact,” said engineering professor Vicki May, who taught the course during spring term. “The students were very engaged.”

Groups took on a range of issues from assisting the visually impaired in social distancing to the sterilization of buses and personal protection equipment (PPE). The team that created Samenspel, an automatic handwashing device that combines the wetting, washing, rinsing, and drying processes, earned this term’s Philip R. Jackson Award for the best overall performance in the course.

Samenspel addresses common handwashing issues, such as:

  • Inconsistency from person to person
  • Unnecessary waste of water, soap, and/or paper
  • Difficulty of correct execution, especially for those with motor control issues

The sustainable, accessible, and effective handwashing experience was developed by: Joshua De La Cruz ’22, Corinne Robitaille ’23, Tyler Stern ’22, and Dual Degree student Shailin Shah from Colby College. The team’s TA was Yefri Figueroa ’21 and their instructor was Kevin Bacon, supervisor of Thayer’s Machine Shop.

The Jackson Award, named after and established by the former Thayer Board of Advisors member, is given each quarter by a review board which applies the following criteria:

  • Societal importance of the selected problem
  • User-centric design considerations
  • Sophistication of the design and degree of difficulty
  • Functionality of the prototype, its documentation and testing
  • Holistic approach to the engineering design process
  • Consistent outstanding performance on both written and oral milestones

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