Each year, the University of Arizona College of Engineering holds a Senior Design Day to showcase student-made engineering projects. With the purpose of solving real-world problems, the industry-sponsored final products come in all shapes and sizes, including sea creatures this year.
The 2013 Senior Design Day’s Best Overall Design winning team built a robotic fish capable of live-streaming underwater footage and taking still shots. The fish will be helpful in studying largely untapped underwater habitats. This summer, the team took it up to Tahoe to test it in a new environment
Lake Tahoe provided the team with conditions not available in Arizona, such as deeper waters. Team member Chas Leichner explained that after testing in Tahoe, they learned that improving the buoyancy system and redesigning certain parts of the fish would help it adapt to different environments. “We did everything we claimed we could at Design Day, but there are a lot of areas we can improve on,” Leichner added.
This team’s commitment to “improving” the fish shows that it was not just another school project, but a part of the team’s post-graduation lives. In fact, with the help of technical sponsor Marcus Engineering and idea and funding sponsor Mediamation, the team plans to commercialize the fish.
Robbie Laity, an electrical and computer engineer, feels that his previous experience working for Marcus Engineering, LLC, prepared him well for the project. He brought in work connection Dr. Patrick Marcus as a mentor for the robotic fish, using the project to incorporate resources from different parts of his life to make an exceptional product.
Through Senior Design, the College of Engineering also helps its students network with engineers, creating a career-building opportunity. Leichner, for example, earned a job with Marcus Engineering after graduating. Meanwhile, team member Hannah Grant explained that the fish “piqued the interest” of her professors at UC San Diego’s graduate program, opening the path to research prospects.
While most students brush aside final exams and papers as soon as they are completed, College of Engineering graduates have the opportunity to take with them an ever-evolving project that combines their academic knowledge, a lifetime of resources, and a newly established career network. In implementing the Senior Design Project, the College of Engineering doesn’t just spit out graduates, but creates engineers.