The latest highlights from Elon’s Department of Engineering.
Juniors tackle projects in collaboration with businesses, interdisciplinary partners
Seven teams of third-year engineering majors are completing six research projects in 2022-23 as part of the year-long Research Methods course. Their projects will culminate in proof-of-concept proposals, presentations, prototypes and some completed designs. Their work includes:
Project 1: Growing crops on constructed floating wetlands
Imagine if there was a magic bullet that could solve issues of water quality, stormwater runoff and urban food deserts. Those are the aims of a research project happening in Innovation Hall’s environmental engineering lab. Students are growing crops like corn and tomatoes on constructed floating wetland platforms in the pond behind Schar Center. With the mentorship of faculty in engineering, biology, environmental studies and chemistry, they will test those crops for safe consumption. The end result could make way for community gardens grown in urban stormwater retention ponds. Read more about this innovative project in the Magazine of Elon.
Project 2: Designing a better orthopedic boot
With mentorship by Assistant Professor Crystal Ramsey of Elon’s School of Physical Therapy, three students are redesigning the orthopedic boot for increased mobility, proper hip alignment, lighter weight and the ability to ice or heat the foot during recovery. Orthopedic boots are commonly used after foot or lower-leg injuries or surgeries. Current designs inhibit activities and cause discomfort due to an uneven gait. The team is particularly focused on functionality for athletes who need to continue training while using orthopedic boots.
Project 3: Redesign picking carts for Stihl’s Mid-Atlantic distribution hub
Two teams are researching ways to improve carts for better control and ease of mobility by employees of different ages and heights as they fulfill orders in the power tool company’s Mid-Atlantic distribution hub in nearby Hillsborough, N.C. An improved cart would improve efficiency, minimize the risk of injury, and could boost sales if more orders are able to be filled in less time. The two teams — Stihl Winning and Stan Stihl — are in a sense competing. Already in regular communication with managers and employees onsite, they will present their research findings and concepts to Stihl leadership this spring.
Project 4: Improve composting methods with Wastequip
Leveraging connections with recent graduates of Elon’s engineering program, a team of students aims to design a new process of composting that would make it more easily adopted on a wider scale. For Wastequip, a leading manufacturer of trash and waste disposal containers headquartered in Charlotte, the team is researching current trends and laws around composting. They will use findings to design a storage solution for compost and its byproducts to eliminate smell and other negative aspects of the practice. Matthew Del Valle ’21 and Stratton Bacogeorge ’22 are employed by Wastequip and consulting with the team.
Project 5: Develop an efficient drivetrain for an electric Formula 1 Racing Car
Elon’s Department of Engineering has established a Formula SAE Electric team that will compete to design, manufacture and race high-performance, single-occupant, electric vehicles. The collegiate FSAE electric competition division is only a few years old, and Elon’s students will join the vanguard of about 20 collegiate teams currently competing. A team of four students are spending this year determining the optimal gear ratio to balance top speed and acceleration; designing a powertrain that will fit into the vehicle’s chassis; and constructing and mounting the powertrain to the chassis. Their design will meet FSAE regulations.
Project 6: Develop preservation methods for sustainable dyes
A team of students is collaborating with local textile manufacturer TS Designs and subsidiary Solid State Clothing to test various methods of extracting and storing naturally sourced clothing dye. Throughout the year, they are testing dyes from pomegranate skins, black walnuts, Osage orange tree wood and madder root. The extracts are being freeze dried, frozen, refrigerated, incubated and stored at room temperature to test which storage methods best preserve each dye. Students will compare the outcomes of each method for each type of dye and present findings to Solid State Clothing this spring. Read more about this local business collaboration on Today at Elon.
Senior capstone team visits Mississippi Delta for weir research
A team of engineering majors are spending their senior year designing a structure to conserve water and potentially recharge the aquifer in the Mississippi Delta.
Under the mentorship of Assistant Professor of Engineering Will Pluer and Director of Engineering Outreach John Ring, the team is designing a weir — a low-lying structure that increases surface water area — to slow runoff and help recharge the aquifer relied on for agriculture in the 3.3-million-acre Delta region.
In December, Jackson Abele ’23, Maggie Cox ’23, Mallory Poff ’23 and Carleigh Wood ’23 spent a week surveying in the Beaver Dam Bayou and presenting a project update to the Yazoo Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District Board of Commissioners.
“Being on the ground put faces to the problem we are trying to solve. That motivates me more because I’ve met some of the people we are trying to help,” Cox said. “It also allowed us to hear many different ideas about what everyone needs, and we are trying to address those in a really impactful way.”
Key deliverables this spring include a design package ready for professional engineering review and a construction quote-ready bill of materials.
Toyota Battery Manufacturing leaders visit with Elon Engineering
Elon University welcomed leadership from Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina to campus Jan. 20 for a tour and overview of academic programs, including the Love School of Business, STEM majors and the Department of Engineering.
Toyota is investing $3.8 billion in a lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in nearby Liberty, N.C., which is expected to open in 2025 and add 2,100 jobs to the region. Engineering faculty, staff and students presented information about the program’s attributes — blending technical knowledge with liberal arts perspectives in a collaborative and experiential learning environment — as well as the strength of undergraduate research and capstone design projects.
“We were excited to host leaders of Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina. It was a great opportunity to meet with them, learn about future engineering needs and how Elon’s Department of Engineering can be a part of that,” said Director of Engineering Outreach John Ring.
Alumni Spotlight: Bernard Reinckens ’16 develops oceanic defense systems with Liquid Robotics
Electronics design, test and integration, and quality engineering: On any given day, Bernard Reinckens ’16 fills all these roles and maybe a few more as an electrical engineer with Liquid Robotics.
Liquid Robotics is a subsidiary of Boeing, developing defense technology that uses sensors, connectivity, and cloud computing to collect and communicate ocean data in real-time. Liquid Robotics is a subsidiary of Boeing, developing defense technology that uses sensors, connectivity, and cloud computing to collect and communicate ocean data in real-time. One of its products is the Wave Glider, an unmanned solar- and wave-powered vehicle that gathers data in conditions and places previously too costly or challenging to navigate. Reinckens is the lead REA (responsible engineering authority) for all of the Wave Glider’s printed circuit board assemblies. His duties entail designing new boards, troubleshooting faulty boards and the development of new test procedures.
“Right now, our electrical engineering team is small. There’s only a handful of us, so we do it all,” Reinckens said. “Every day is different.”
Reinckens graduated from Elon’s dual-degree engineering program, earning a B.S. in Engineering-Physics from Elon, and completing his B.S. in Electrical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. He later went on to earn his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Villanova University in 2021.
Elon offered the opportunity to grow his STEM skills in smaller classes with professors who are passionate about teaching and provided the opportunity to pursue extracurricular interests in sports and service. But what Reinckens values most about his time at Elon was the emphasis on effective collaboration.
“Elon prepared me for all the other schooling and classes I took at my engineering and graduate schools, and it showed me that as technical as engineering can be, it’s really about being able to effectively communicate and work with others,” he said. Reinckens recalled the numerous late-night study sessions with classmates on the STEM floor in Staley Hall.
After graduating in 2016, he was initially hired by Boeing in St. Louis as an electronic design and analysis engineer on the F/A-18 program. Over the next six years, he worked a variety of roles at Boeing Defense including designing power supplies for flight control hardware, testing electronic components for quality and safety, and leading projects for INS/GPS and navigation mission computers.
At Liquid Robotics, the best part of his job is working with colleagues and knowing the work they are doing has significant outcomes in the maritime industry.
“There’s always something more and new to learn, and it’s constantly evolving and changing,” he said. “Elon and all the schools I attended showed me that learning is a contact sport and that it’s continuous. My desire to learn is what keeps me active long after graduating college. It challenges me to become a better problem solver and, consequently, a better engineer.”
Student profile: Mallory Poff ’23 finds a way to do it all
She’s a Lumen Scholar designing a solar-powered mobile cooling station for Loy Farm crops, served as a drum major for the Fire of the Carolinas marching band for three years, and a leader in various aspects of student life on campus. If Mallory Poff didn’t have a career ahead as a solar energy engineer, she might consider leading professional courses in time management.
“Elon provides a lot of different opportunities for students, no matter their major or area of interest. That’s something that’s unique about this school and why I love it here.”
Learn more about what drives Poff in this Today at Elon feature.
Innovation Quad interior design team takes top honors
Director of Interior Design Holly Hodge and Interior Designer Jenny Gonzalez were recognized at the 2022 Design Competition Awards from the Association of University Interior Designers (AUID) held at Purdue University.
Both Hodge and Gonzalez won first place in the New Construction over $500,000 category and overall Best in Show for their interior design work in Founders Hall and Innovation Hall.
“I think we do a lot of really cool things on campus, and there are very innovative interior spaces where students can flourish inside and outside the classroom. The recognition validates what we’re doing on campus,” Hodge said. “To me, the biggest recognition is when you see students experience a space for the first time and say, ‘This is so cool.’ That makes my heart smile.”
From an institutional standpoint, Gonzalez said: “For Elon, the recognition further highlights our newly accredited engineering program and is another example of why students should choose Elon.”
Read more about their work on Today at Elon.
Grand Challenges I ROVs take to Beck Pool
First-year engineers raced the clock — and each other — testing the final designs of their underwater remotely operated vehicles. Their prototypes had to tag and collect items beneath the surface, traverse underwater obstacles, and measure water depth and temperature.
Ayesh Awad ’24 and Vivian Krause ’24 attend biomedical engineering conference
Vivian Krause ’24 and Ayesh Awad ’24 attended the Biomedical Engineering Society annual conference in San Antonio, Texas, last fall. Both are Lumen Scholars pursuing biomedical research projects under the mentorship of Assistant Professor Jonathan Su.
“It was such an incredible experience — from expanding my knowledge on cutting-edge research and technology in the field, to exploring different options post-graduation. I’m so thankful for everyone that I met and the wisdom they shared,” Krause said. “This conference made me feel energized in my passions and research interests, and more clear in my future directions for my research and educational pursuits.”