Designed to Make a Difference

Few senior design projects have as exciting a potential for application in the real world as those of Craig Rewerts and Chia-Yiaw Chong.

The two ECE seniors, who graduated in May, worked hard with their teams to create devices that could have far-ranging impact on the world around them.

ECE Solutions Make Officers Safer

Standard police procedures currently require police to enter a suspected methamphetamine lab with a warrant to collect evidence for court, a practice that can be dangerous to officers. As team leader in his EPICS 402 class, a course that puts projects to use in the community, Rewerts came up with a way to solve that problem.

After meeting with West Lafayette law enforcement agents, the team devised a small, box-like mechanism to detect and document the presence of labs by sampling the air nearby. Police will now be able to collect evidence without a warrant or by personally endangering themselves.

The mobile air sampler operates by pumping air into a sorbent tube, which is made of a porous material with an affinity for certain non-volatile organic compounds. The tube traps particles from the air and is then taken to a mass spectrometer to identify the chemicals according to their molecular weights.

“Developing the mobile air sampler was a rewarding experience,” says Rewerts, who also created and oversaw the electrical control configurations for the project. “The device will provide a more efficient way for local law enforcement to detect methamphetamine production.”

Making the Impossible Possible

Imagine a magic hat that allows those with limited mobility to live more comfortably. Chia-Yiaw Chong and his ECE 402 senior design project teammates may bring such a wonder to life. 

Chong and his team created a five-function remote control that allows a person to send simple commands by moving the head, blowing on a sensor, and winking. The device consists of a baseball cap with sensors interfaced to a radio transmitter that sends the commands to a base-station receiver/interpreter box.

Chong’s duty was to design and implement the remote control and receiver so that the headset can wirelessly communicate with the base station. The signal is then decoded and sent to the next subsystem. The device is currently programmed to allow people with limited mobility to perform complex operations that they would otherwise be unable to do, such as measuring objects and storing the images and data on a computer.

“This five-function remote control can be modified to turn on a TV, dial a number, and do many different things,” Chong says. The graduating senior, who will return in the fall to pursue his master’s degree in electrical engineering, was recently honored with the Eaton Award in Design Excellence for his work on this project. Chong is the eighth recipient of the award, established with a generous gift from Jim (BSEE ’58, MSEE ’63, PhD ’67) and Shirley Eaton, that recognizes outstanding work in the field of design.

“I learned a lot. It’s really important to get a job done with good communication skills,” he says. “It is an exciting and satisfactory experience to be able to apply the theories and principles I learned in class to real world applications.”

–Rebecca Goldenberg