UTDesign Students Show Stick-to-itiveness, Win National Competition
For the Fifth Consecutive Year, a Comets Team Captured First Place at the ASME Conference

From left: Jonathan Madera, Monica Dallacasa, Stephen Brocious, Keaton Adcock, Reid Goins and Christian Vieira won first place at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference in June. 

A company that makes fiber-optic cables asked a team of University of Texas at Dallas mechanical engineering students to solve a sticky problem: design a fast and accurate system to dispense glue and assemble components during the manufacturing process for a new line of cables.

The UTDesign team not only met the challenge, but it also won first place at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference, hosted by Penn State Behrend in June.

The victory was the fifth consecutive UTDesign first-place prize in the national competition for the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. Another UTDesign team received the second-place award in the competition for its project for a company that manufactures electrical wire used in commercial and residential buildings.

UTDesign is a capstone course that gives engineering and computer science seniors the opportunity to work with faculty and corporate mentors on real-world problems for corporate sponsors. The UTDesign Studio offers working space for teams and includes a fabrication shop, 3D printers and computer-assisted design stations, among other features.

Winning Solution

The first-place team’s six members spent numerous hours, including several all-nighters, in the studio to perfect their glue-dispensing system and create a new assembly process to work with the technology for corporate sponsor Corning Inc., a New York-based company that has offices in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Thinking, working, struggling, failing and repeating as a team over and over is what eventually led to success,” said Keaton Adcock, the team’s leader.

The teammates made it their goal to create a winning solution.

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“The countless nights we spent living in the senior design lab were all worth it when our team was announced as the first-place winner,” teammate Reid Goins said.

Corning product engineer Heru Santoso, who worked with the UT Dallas team, said the students had the skills, innovative ideas and passion to deliver an excellent solution. Corning was trying to solve a problem at one of its manufacturing plants, where glue was being applied manually at inconsistent drop locations during the assembly of its new line of cables.

“I’m very happy and impressed with the level of details that they provided while still maintaining the completion of the project in a timely manner,” Santoso said. “Not only did they deliver the prototype of the system, but they also provided thorough documentation to enable us to refine the system in the future.”

The teammates earned bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering with honors in May and now have internships or jobs. Adcock, Goins and teammates Stephen Brocious, Jonathan Madera and Christian Vieira are working on master’s degrees in mechanical engineering through the Jonsson School Fast-Track Program. A sixth teammate, Monica Dallacasa, plans to earn a master’s degree in systems engineering and management, which focuses on how to design and manage systems over their life cycle.

The students have been friends since they started school at UT Dallas.

“What made this moment sweeter was that we did it together, just a band of friends who had known each other since the first semester of freshman year,” Madera said.

Encore Performance

UTDesign students also took the second-place prize at the competition with their project for sponsor Encore Wire Corp. in McKinney, Texas. The team’s task was to design an automated machine that could remove a 1- to 2-foot sample of plastic insulation from a moving cable without slowing or stopping the cable. Encore needed the technology to test the thickness of the insulation.

John Leitch BS’19 (left) showed his team’s design to Daniel McCaulley, one of the mentors from Encore Wire, at the UTDesign Expo in May. The project finished second at the ASME competition.

Kevin Rodgers, Encore Wire research engineer and one of the company’s mentors who worked with the students, said the team’s success was no surprise based on the company’s experience with UTDesign.

“We are proud of these students’ success at the ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference and proud to have been a part of their development into industry professionals,” Rodgers said. “They clearly demonstrated the skills needed to work resourcefully on a team and developed an effective solution to a real-world problem. Encore Wire wishes all the students the best of luck in their professional careers, and we look forward to sponsoring future projects with UTD.”

The team members were: Nicholas Azzarito, Nicholas Kilbreath, Elizabeth Labra, Vincent Le, John Leitch and Nicole Maly. Labra, the team’s leader, and Maly will continue at UT Dallas to pursue master’s degrees in systems engineering and management through the fast-track program.

Labra said her UTDesign experience will help her reach her career goals.

“Being able to work on a company-sponsored project exposed me to what it is like to work on a real engineering project in a hands-on manner that I had previously not been able to do,” she said. “UTD’s other engineering courses provided a solid foundation, and, after working on this project, I feel more prepared than ever to enter the workforce as an effective engineer.”


Capstone Contest Winners Build Smarter Sprinklers

Franklin Cooper hates it when his sprinkler goes off while he’s at work — and it’s raining. So when a team of UTDesign students submitted a smart sprinkler system as part of a local competition, he was instantly intrigued.

“I wanted to see if their project improved efficiency and saved water,” Cooper said.

The university manager for Texas Instruments Inc. was one of the judges of The University of Texas at Dallas Best Use of TI contest, sponsored by the company. All students were welcome to enter the contest. The winner was chosen based on creativity, innovation and incorporation of TI products into a technical project.

UTDesign students created a smart sprinkler system for the Best Use of TI contest.

Team members George “Joey” Hamad and Justin Dy were both computer engineering majors. Eric Hill, Saman Gharahgozloo and Neil Mustafa all majored in electrical engineering. Known as Team DNE, all five earned their bachelor’s degrees in spring 2019.

“I was impressed with how the UTDesign project was a whole device,” Cooper said. “Typically students submit a component or a small part of a larger mechanism. They usually don’t submit an entire product consisting of working parts.”

Team DNE’s winning project, unofficially known as a Cloud Hosted Intelligent Sprinkler System, is “an autonomous sprinkler system capable of monitoring outdoor conditions and adjusting the settings accordingly,” Hamad said.

Users can control the smart system from anywhere at any time using a web interface. The system measures soil moisture, weather data and watering schedules to determine which sprinklers in the network should run. Using various local network connections and national providers, the system wirelessly communicates moisture and weather data through sensor nodes, which causes sprinklers to turn on and off.

This allows the user to set a weekly watering schedule. It saves water by preventing the sprinkler from running when it is raining, when rain is in the forecast or when the soil is at a certain moisture threshold where watering would be unnecessary.

“When a schedule is set, the system takes over by making decisions on when to water based on the moisture levels of each sprinkler region,” Hill said. “A homeowner can also physically turn the sprinkler on and off, if they prefer. Either way, our device saves water by preventing operation of the sprinkler under wet conditions.”

— Melissa Cutler

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].