Engineering department hosts second annual Madison Engineering xChange


 

On April 18, The James Madison University (JMU) Department of Engineering hosted the second annual Madison Engineering xChange, an on-campus event that highlights a year of good through innovation, research, and design.

Students from all four years presented their work with posters and prototypes to more than 500 student, faculty, alumni, industry and public participants.

“So with our whole curriculum, every year there’s a project,” senior Bartlett Jones said. “We’re a very hands-on based engineering department.”

Jones presented his capstone project at the xChange. He worked with four other seniors to make a disaster relief water treatment system for chlorination, specifically for Benin, in sub-Saharan Africa.

“A lot of people in sub-Saharan Africa, a lot of people in disaster areas, have problems with cholera, which is basically fecal matter in the water,” Jones explained. “Because they’re in a disaster scenario, a lot of things can get stirred up in water, and bacteria can get in.”

Jones and one other group member studied abroad in Benin for their project, in order to get a better sense of the need for a water treatment system.

“I’m always going to be involved with so much more outside the big picture,” Jones said. “I came [to JMU] and I liked the idea of leading and being a leader, and the engineering department is really helping me understand that leadership and apply it to my future.”

Juniors Brittany Berni, Jerney Davis, and Kathryn McDonald also presented their capstone project at the xChange, developing a wheelchair with more versatile capabilities.

They are finishing their first year of the project, focusing on building a prototype. The idea for their project came from a second-year engineering project, building a bicycle for a client with cerebral palsy.

“For me, I really loved the bike project and this most resembles it,” Davis said. “With the bike project you really got to see the clients interact with it and their life change, and that felt really amazing to me.”

The team thinks that the engineering department and its emphasis on interactive projects allow the students to take initiative with their work.

“They’re very hands-on with the process, but they let us take ownership of what we do,” Berni said. “I do like that we can kind of do what we want.”

McDonald agreed.

“Even though we selected a project we get to define it even further,” she said.

Freshmen in the department are beginning to take ownership of their projects as well, and customizing them to meet the needs of clients. Freshman Maria Parilli worked on a project that combined simple machines to demonstrate cause and effect to children aged 5-12.

Parilli enjoyed the project, she said. When she and project members took their prototype to the children, they received valuable feedback which they used to improve their prototype.

“[The kids] suggested using little animals,” Parrilli said. She added plastic animal figurines to the simple machine prototype to make it more kid-friendly.

Freshmen in the department have a lot to look forward to in the coming years at the engineering symposium.

“Every year [the xChange] is getting bigger and bigger,” said Jones. “I’m sure in four years I won’t be able to recognize it.”

And, as Madison Engineering continues to grow, so will the number of opportunities for students to do good in the world. 

Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016

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