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Students find innovation, inspiration at Design EXPO


Last updated 5/3/2018 at Noon

What has become a Lind-Ritzville High School Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Club tradition continued, as a group of students traveled Friday to Moscow, Idaho for the 25th University of Idaho (U of I) College of Engineering’s annual Engineering Design EXPO.

The Design EXPO is the longest running showcase for senior capstones in the Pacific Northwest, and the National Academy of Engineering has recognized the program as “one of the best in the nation.”

To describe the event, the program’s website explains, “The U of I College of Engineering Design EXPO is a signature showcase for student innovation. The event includes, project booths, technical presentations, sponsor and partner booths, and special guest speakers.”

“EXPO provides a unique view into the world of engineering and the work of U of I engineering students,” they added.

One of the most important components of the EXPO is the applicability of the student innovations to the world’s most urgent problems.

Larry Stauffer, Dean of the College of Engineering at U of I, wrote, “University of Idaho engineering students tackle real-world issues with the help of industry and academic partners.

“Every year we make an effort to not only showcase our students’ work but to do something different that demonstrates the importance of engineering to our world.”

The connection to real-world problems is made possible through collaboration between capstone students and businesses.

Stauffer continued, “Our project sponsors provide the technical problems and our students provide solutions, gaining invaluable hands-on research and design experience in the process.”

He added, “It’s a perfect match!”

To address multiple kinds of issues and represent the work of each department within the College of Engineering, Design EXPO projects feature integrated branches of engineering, including biological, chemical and materials, civil and environmental, computer science, electrical and computing, and mechanical engineering.

Of the five LRHS students that attended the design EXPO, each liked a different project.

Sharon Anderson reflected, “My favorite project was an improvement for installing aisle lights on Boeing airplanes. They made a 90 percent more efficient way to plug the lights together.”

She added, “Even though it wasn’t the most complicated project, it was my favorite because it solves a major problem for an important industry that should have been solved a long time ago.”

“At the expo I really liked a project about using natural resources to make bio-gas,” said Lorria McCauley. “I like it because I have an appreciation for people who try to reuse natural resources in an environmentally friendly way.”

McCauley also appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of the project: “The student that did the project was majoring in a branch of engineering that had nothing to do with his project, and I thought that was interesting,” she explained.

Anderson is beginning to envision what branch of engineering she might engage in at the next level.

“I think, as far as projects go, chemical engineering was the most interesting because it’s so complicated but very useful, and I would be more suited to be a chemical engineering rather than an industrially related one,” she stated.

Overall, the STEM Club returns to the U of I Engineering EXPO each year because it inspires students to believe that they, too, can contribute to similar projects in the future and innovate to improve society.

McCauley explained, “Science is something I like, so I enjoy hearing what other people can do.”

With the full knowledge that she will be in the capstone students’ shoes in just a few short years, Anderson concluded, “It was pretty inspiring that college students are the ones coming up with some really great ideas.”


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