College holds inaugural Design Expo to showcase student talent and creativity

More than 500 students represented 70-plus teams at the event, which featured Purdue Engineer Joe Watkins as a keynote speaker.

Purdue Engineering held the 2022 Design Expo with the theme “A Celebration of Engineering Creativity” on April 29. It was the first year for the showcase, which included all Engineering programs and majors.

Photo of Joe Watkins
Joe Watkins, who co-founded Socio while at Purdue, was the keynote speaker at the Design Expo. (Photo: Vincent Walter)

More than 500 students represented 70-plus teams in senior design, the Professional Master’s Program capstone, EPICS, Vertically Integrated Projects and student clubs shared their work and participated in design challenges. Projects ranged from an autonomous home gardening system to a motorcycle lifting hitch carrier to a pelican food delivery service. 

Keynote speaker Joe Watkins, co-founder of the most successful all-student Purdue startup, spoke at the event. A South Bend native, Watkins’ entrepreneurial drive began in high school where he began working as a computer technology consultant, serving more than 600 clients. Following high school, the Class of ’17 Purdue Boilermaker engineer — together with Purdue undergraduates Yarkin Sakucoglu and Alihan Ozbayrak — co-founded Socio, a modern event technology platform that manages the full lifecycle of multi-session, multi-track virtual, in-person and hybrid conferences – from registration to post-event analytics. The success of Socio earned the trio a Forbes 30 Under 30 award in 2020. In July 2021, Fortune 100 company Cisco acquired Socio, now known as Webex Events, where Watkins serves as chief customer officer.

Students presenting projects at Design Expo
Design projects were on display for much of the afternoon. (Photo: Vincent Walter)

The event was held at the Purdue Armory and featured door prizes, snacks and more than $10,000 in team awards.

"Autonomous Home Gardening System" won the Multidisciplinary Design Award, which represented intentional multidisciplinary perspective-taking for the purpose of developing a sound and fully integrated design solution. 

Students presenting projects at Design Expo
More than 70 teams showcased design projects at the Design Expo on April 29. (Photo: Vincent Walter)

The Purdue SWE Catalyst for Change Award recognized the senior design project that embodied the key elements of the Society of Women Engineers mission and core values by rewarding a project that leveraged engineering and technology to further advance equity and inclusion in the world either through the impact of the project or as a foundational element of the project team. The first-place winner was "Addressing Sensory Overload Through Soft Robotics." 

The PESC Impact Awards celebrated and acknowledged three senior design projects that show the potential for significant social, sustainable or industry impact. Projects were evaluated by PESC Leadership and invited judges. The winners: Designing a Digital Solution to Track Payments to Smallholder Farmers in Africa (social impact); PUR-2 Pebble Bed Microreactor (industry impact); Access to Energy and Transportation for Small-Holder Farmers (sustainability impact).

The Outstanding Graduate Team Award was presented to "Spare Parts Consolidation." 

The People's Choice Award was chosen by live popular vote of Expo attendees. "Motorcycle Lifting Hitch Carrier" was the winner.

A complete list of winners is available.

Students presenting projects at Design Expo
The event included including senior design, PMP capstone, EPICS, VIP and student clubs participating in various design challenges. (Photo: Vincent Walter)