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Mechanical Engineering Design Expo



 On Friday April 24th the mechanical engineering senior and graduate design students presented and showed off their year long design projects. The Idea Forge was filled with students, sponsors, and family from 11:30-2:00 to take a look at students projects. At 2:00pm the winners were announced for the 2015 mechanical engineering design expo. Taking first prize was the Micro Motion team with their cruise ship fuel efficiency simulator and in second was the surgical headlamp team, a project sponsored by University of Colorado Denver. The peoples choice award was a tie between the Bona and Sk8Wake teams.


Good job this year students, you all had some amazing projects! Thank you for a wonderful year and have a great summer!






News for all New and Returning Students



Shell Eco Marathon Competition

pictures courtesy of Shell


The CU Eco-marathon teams brought two cars to Detroit this year to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon competition. In the alternative fuel class the Buffs took first place with 842mpg in their car TATONKATOO. CU also competed in the gasoline prototype class with the car The Mile High Buffs and were able to achieve 8th place with 889mpg. Good job Buffs!


For more information on the Shell Eco Marathon competition you can visit their website.




Idea Forge
courtesy of eNotes October 2013M.E. Times Fall 2013, and Iron Horse Architects
The Department of Mechanical Engineering is poised to benefit greatly from an exciting renovation at the University of Colorado Boulder that will create a unique space dedicated to student invention and design. The university plans to repurpose approximately 22,000 square feet of the former law library in the Fleming building to create the Idea Forge, envisioned as a flexible, cross-disciplinary collaborative space where students can imagine, design, create, and test products and solutions to meet a range of societal and customer needs. Approximately 50 percent of this new facility will be dedicated to our department, which welcomes the added space as we continue to break student enrollment records and grow in our faculty numbers and funding. 

The Idea Forge will house Design Center Colorado and will support course-related student teams, as well as design and development driven by entrepreneurial-minded individuals and service-oriented groups from across the College of Engineering and Applied Science and other disciplines. With all these students working side-by-side, the Idea Forge will boost student learning through collaborative, hands-on experience while supporting industry interaction via scheduled workshops as well as spontaneous exchanges. 

The proposal for the space includes creation of a series of reconfigurable, interconnected "makerspaces" with opportunities for formal and informal learning. Rapid prototyping, welding, and electronics shops, plus advanced machining facilities, will be included within a space that is open and reconfigurable to handle the needs of different projects over time.
The Idea Forge is currently in the design phase, with construction slated to begin in February and be completed for the start of the Fall 2014 semester.
Shell Eco Marathon Competition

pictures courtesy of Shell


As the two CU Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Eco-Marathon teams return from racing their eco-friendly cars in Houston, excitement is in the air over the CU Engineering Center. From April 24-27, teams from all over the Americas came to Houston to participate in the Shell Eco-Marathon competition. This year the CU Senior Design program, run through Design Center Colorado, was fortunate to have two cars compete.


The competition is all about efficiency with a mix of class and professionalism. Each car is designed and built by students from high school and college. The competition is divided into five different energy classes for competition. The cars that competed in Houston were all unique, showing the innovation and creativity of the students. This can be seen in this competition video and this finish line video that has a strong showing from the CU team and vehicles.




The two CU cars competed in the gasoline and alternative fuel classes. The teams began work in September with each striving for the highest mpg in their class. The gasoline team started the week able to reach just under 1200 mpg. By the end of the competition they were able to raise that to 1350 mpg, taking 8th place in their class. The alternative fuel team, with its first showing, was able to reach 1771 mpg using ethanol as their alternative fuel. The team took 1st place, a feat that had the team in celebration, earning them a check for $2000 to be added to the CU Eco-Marathon teams coffers for next year.


The results of the competition were not the only highlight of the year. This year the team built a vacuum form table, used to construct plastic frames. The table was used  to build the alternative fuel car's frame this year and should prove useful in the future. This year’s Eco-Marathon teams are excited about their strong showing at the competition and look forward to handing over their ideas to next year’s teams.

CU Students Help Swift Tram Win NASA Contest


Engineering students from the University of Colorado, working with Boulder-based startup Swift Tram, have helped the company win first prize in the 2013 NASA Tech Briefs Create the Future contest. Swift is in the design and engineering phase of developing an “automated people mover” using elevated fixed guideways and suspended coaches.

Design Center Colorado Faculty Recieves National Science Foundation Awards
courtesy of M.E. Times Fall 2013

Assistant Professor Greg Rieker received $310,000 in NSF funding for a project with the Colorado School of Mines aimed at understanding early-stage chemical decomposition of coal char in entrained-flow gasifiers, an important technology for cleaner utilization of abundant coal resources.


Assistant Professor Mark Rentschler, with co-PIs Daria Kotys-Schwartz, and Kevin O'Connor (Colorado School of Mines), received an NSF award to understand the design practices of the contemporary engineering workplace and organization of design process.



Asakawa recognized with national award of excellence
courtesy of CU Boulder Today
Glenn Asakawa, associate director for photography and video in University Communications at CU-Boulder, was recently recognized with an award of excellence in the 2013 UCDA National Design competition for his cover photo “Wind Engineers”. The photo appeared in the most recent edition of the CU Engineering magazine. Glenn is a CU-Boulder alumnus and Pulitzer prize-winning photographer. This is his third UCDA national award.
Senior Design exhibit opens at childrens museum

Courtesy of WOW

July 15, 2013

​​   It looks like the World of Wonder (WOW) Children's Museum has got a new toy. The water cycle exhibit showcases the cycle water goes through. The interactive exhibit starts with a crank that brings the water molecules from a lake into the clouds. The water molecules (represented by little blue balls) then slide down a ramp into a chamber. When someone releases the cloud chamber the water falls down the mountain as rain into a reservoir where they can be released back into the lake. The exhibit has the information on the different phases that water goes through so that the kids can learn while they play.


  The new exhibit that the Museum recently received was designed by a group of students in the Senior Design Class. The students worked closely with WOW to come up with an exhibit that the kids would enjoy and learn from. The Design Center has worked with WOW children’s museum in the past and both groups look forward to possibly working together again.

CU-Boulder Mechatronics class ends semester with robot dodgeball tournament

Courtesy of Daily Camera:  Sara Kuta

April 29, 2013

     If you can dodge an infrared vision array, you can dodge a ball.

     That was the motto of teams in the University of Colorado's Mechatronics class, who have been building autonomous, dodgeball-playing robots all semester.

     The 11 teams capped off the spring semester on Monday afternoon with a robot dodgeball tournament inside the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory on the Boulder campus. Two robots at a time were placed inside a small, robot-sized arena filled with bright orange Ping-Pong balls.

     Once the students put the mechanical machines in the ring, the robots were on their own for four minutes. The bots made decisions based on student-designed

programming -- no remote controls -- and tried to lob as many balls as possible at the other robot.

     One robot named "Meg" after TV's "Family Guy" character suffered a brutal 17-7 defeat to "The Shredder." Meg got stuck and couldn't seem to get moving again, while her creators watched helplessly from the sidelines.  "(The Shredder) is the best robot by far," said Eric Phaneuf, one of Meg's creators. "They have 10 vision sensors and we have one. We can't track them, so that was pretty much it."

     Each robot was built with an infrared vision array, or sensors to detect either red or green lights on the other robot. Once the robot senses his foe, an onboard microprocessor controls motors, which theoretically move the robot toward its target.  That's how it's supposed to work anyway, Phaneuf said. With only one sensor, Meg's capabilities of finding The Shredder, approaching and lobbing a ball at it were limited, he said. The team even put a photograph of the real cartoon Meg on the robot as an "intimidation factor," said senior John Evanyo.

     "We gave them a run for their money," said Gaurav Soin, another Meg creator.

     ITLL co-director and the Mechatronics instructor Derek Reamon kept score of how many balls made contact with each robot from the sidelines. He's been teaching the class since 2002, and at the beginning of each semester, he warns students how time consuming building an autonomous robot from scratch can be.  Some students don't come back after that first lecture, he said, but the ones who hang around finish the semester with real-world experience to talk about in job interviews.  The robots require integrating mechanical systems and electrical systems, which is a valuable workplace skill, Reamon said.  ohe people who hire our students, these skills are really directly applicable," he said. "(Some) can go work on Mars Rovers -- that's pretty much a more sophisticated version of the robots we're working on. It can also be medical devices that require some micro-controller inside. Really most any major industry would be pleased to have people that are proficient in systems integration."

     The class brainstorms a semester-long goal at the beginning of the class. In the past, Reamon said students have decided to make their robots joust, race each other like in the video game "Mario Kart" and a find and diffuse a fictional bomb.

     As the competition went on, faces crowded the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked in on the classroom. Spectators stood on chairs to get a better look at the action. One component of the demonstration is to show others how exciting science can be, Reamon said.  Patty and Ron Oelschlager drove from Colorado Springs to watch their son Max's robot. They brought with them bright orange flags, the same color as Max's bot, to cheer him on. Patty Oelschlager pointed to a plaque in the hall with the Confucius quote "I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand," and said she was glad her son got to practice the skills he learned in class at CU.

     "It's hands-on, it's creative," Patty Oelschlager said. "This is the coolest thing that has happened."

     Nearby, junior Teller Junak and his group made the finishing adjustments to their robot, Joe, complete with scorpion pincers and a tail.  Because he learned about "the guts" of robot Joe, Junak said he constantly contemplates the inner workings of everyday systems, like a garage door opener.

     "This is why I joined mechanical engineering," Junak said. "Because I like figuring out how stuff works and building things, actually making physical things that do stuff and move around."

See full article and video at


Courtesy of Monster Max Blog

April 29, 2013

​     Max Watson is a non-mobile, non-verbal 9-year old boy who has epilepsy as well as a very rare metabolic disease.  Due to his compromised immune system, Max cannot be around kids his own age and is homebound; he joins his class via Skype and/or FaceTime.  Maz's parents met with a team of freshmen engineering students from Ginger Ferguson’s First-Year Engineering Projects class and asked if they would create a wheelchair that could go over rougher terrain than his current wheelchair. 

     The student team, Team 5 Guys, met with Max and his family to a lot of measurements for the chair itself. They took Max's old wheelchair, which was going unused since he got his new wheelchair in February, and redesigned it to create anew

piece of equipment for Max:  an all-terrain wheelchair. 


On Saturday, at the ITLL Design Exo, the weather was absolute perfection and Max got to try out his new wheelchair -- it worked wonderfully!  After the team makes a few adjustments to the design, Max will get to take it home and use it.

To see Max's blog and more pictures, please visit

Mechanical Engineering Design Expo


      On April 26th, the Design Center Colorado hosted the Mechanical Engineering Design Expo where Senior Design students will showcased their year-long industry sponsored projects.  This year's winners were judged by industry members and CU ME Faculty. 

First place:  Office of Naval Research Senior Design Team for Measuring Model Vehicle Dynamics Resulting from Soil Blast Second place:  Los Alamos National Labs Senior Design Team for their Liter Fluid Injection System

Third place:  Lockheed Martin Senior Design Team for their Orion Star Tracker Cover

To see a complete list of this year's projects, please click here.

ME Senior Design Team wins CU Energy Club's Energy Frontiers Poster Session

April 4, 2013


      The ME Design Center Colorado NREL Senior Design team, consisting of members Faith Batrack, Eli Kuhlmann, Adam Lokar, Coulter Pohlman and Charles Wheeler, competed in the CU Energy Club Energy Frontiers 2013. The team, advised by Paul Ibanez, took home the "Best Undergraduate" category award and "Best Overall" award.  To see their poster, please click here.  The team was also featured in CU Engineering Magazine (left).

     The team's project focuses on experimentally determining the stiffness of wind turbine bearings in all six degrees of freedom – bearing failures are a major barrier for today's wind technology to be accepted as a reliable, new source for energy. Bearings located in the gear box of wind turbines fail just after a few years of operation - many years below their expected lifetime. These gearboxes are designed around bearing stiffness values provided by the bearing manufacturer. Under the loads seen in operation, these bearings are deforming much more than these manufacturer's stiffness values would estimate. With this being the case, the root cause of bearing failure may be due to incorrect and/or incomplete stiffness values of the entire bearing.

     The team's test rig mimics a wind turbine bearing environment by encasing the bearing around a stiffer, steel structure, with the inner race pressed onto a steel shaft. Electronically controlled hydraulics impart variable force

onto the steel shaft, while eddy-current sensors are used to measure the movements of the shaft, which is equal to the deformations in the bearing. By knowing the force applied and the resulting deformation, stiffness is calculated by the ratio of the two.

Students Travel Far on Little Fuel in Eco-Marathon
Courtesy of College of Engineering eNotes

April 2013

     CU Engineering students placed 6th in the gasoline division at the Shell Eco-Marathon of the Americas in Houston, April 5-7, edging out Cal Poly, Colorado School of Mines, University of Michigan, and numerous other top-ranked schools. It was the CU team’s second best finish in the six years it has competed in the event.

     The competition challenges students to design, build, and drive the most energy-efficient car. The CU team achieved a best mileage score of 1,287 mpg in the race.

     "The first day of competition (Saturday) was pretty successful as we got four runs in achieving our highest mileage on the third. But Sunday was the type of day where anything that could go wrong did," said mechanical engineering senior Austin Schipper. "We have achieved higher mileages at our test track in Colorado and we know the vehicle is capable of much higher mileages than we achieved."


     Students Kelsey Spurr, Kyle Jacques, Richard Viehdorfer, and Ben Fuoss were also part of this year’s Eco-Marathon team. Paul Sweazey from last year’s team returned as driver, while Greg Potts and Marcelo Bergquist continued their service as faculty advisors.
     “They have done a ton of great things to the car this year and have been an awesome team to work with,” Potts said. Modifications included reducing the weight of the vehicle with a carbon fiber sub-frame, improving the driver controls, and modifying the motor to achieve 1.5 times its factory power output.
     "It will be very exciting to see what future teams can do with the incredible toolbox we developed for this vehicle during the 2012-13 year," Schipper said.

CU-Boulder engineers aim for 2,500 mpg with eco-marathon vehicle

Courtesy of Daily Camera:  Brittany Anas
January 20, 2013

     In a lab at the University of Colorado, a team of mechanical engineering students is designing an eco-marathon car with hopes it can achieve 2,500 miles per gallon.

​     She's aerodynamic, with a sleek black frame adorned with CU and sponsor logos. She weighs about 135 pounds, though her aluminum parts are being replaced with lighter weight carbon fiber. And, her name is Ralphie.

     The seniors on CU's Shell Eco-Marathon team will give her a run April 5-7 in Houston at the annual competition. Until then, you might see them zipping around in the vehicle on CU's East Campus research park, where they are logging hours of driver training before the big show.

     "I kind of feel like this is my baby," said Team Manager Austin Schipper. 

     Schipper began volunteering for the team during his freshman year. Now an official member of the five-man, all-senior team, he and his teammates work equivalent to full-time jobs engineering the competition vehicle, sometimes logging 60 hours a week on the project.

     Last year, the CU team placed second in the competition, which is a challenge to high school and college students from North and South America to design, build and test fuel-efficient vehicles that travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.  CU's team achieved 1,767 miles per gallon. (In the 15-mile trek, the CU vehicle used 13 milliliters of fuel, which is less gas than evaporates from a car on a hot summer day, explained Kelsey Spurr, the team's financial manager).

     The winning team in 2012 was from Evansville, Ind., and achieved 2,188 miles per gallon. More than 1,000 students from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil, along with their 112 vehicles, competed in the 2012 challenge in the Americas. Shell awarded $44,000 in prizes to the winning teams, in addition to the travel stipends that were offered to each participating team.

     Among this year's upgrades to the CU vehicle are sensors and driver controls on the steering wheel, improving engine efficiency by bettering things like engine compression, explained team members. Also, using carbon fiber to replace existing heavy metal parts will lower the vehicle weight without a reduction in strength -- meaning less gas will need to be consumed to get the vehicle to speed, the students said.  "There are a bunch of big leaps taking us forward this year," Schipper said.

     The competition started out as a wager between two Shell scientists in 1939. They competed to see who could achieve the greatest gas mileage on their own personal cars. It evolved into a more formal challenge, with the first organized competition taking place in 1985.

     This year marks CU's sixth year in the Eco-Marathon competition.  From the beginning, driver ergonomics have been key in the design, Schipper said. He compares the feeling of driving the vehicle to being in a go-kart. The vehicle holds one person, and the lightest person on the team drives the car at the competition.

     Spurr said the project has helped the mechanical engineers learn other disciplines -- including electrical engineering and marketing to garner sponsorships."We're all gearheads turned eco-nuts," Spurr said.

     Other teammates include: Richard Viehdorfer, Benjamin Fuoss and Kyle Jacques.

See full article at

CU-Boulder students build bikes for kids with disabilities

Courtesy of Daily Camera:  Ben Macaluso
April 28, 20

     In what may be a rare occasion, a homework assignment at the University of Colorado became a joyous event on Saturday.  On top of that, students were able to give back with the assignment as it provides children with disabilities an opportunity to ride bikes.

     Hundreds gathered Saturday in the courtyard in front of Durning Laboratory for CU's Design Expo and Adaptive Bicycle Run-Off. Students from Daria Kotys-Schwartz's component design class were assigned a project at the beginning of the semester to assemble bikes for disabled children.

     Kotys-Schwartz, a CU mechanical engineering instructor, said her 130 students split into 27 teams of roughly five members per group. The teams had 13 weeks and a $300 budget to build bikes specific to a child's needs.  "The most rewarding part of this experience is to see families have the opportunity to give their children bikes that you can't find in stores  and  insurance  often  doesn't  pay for," Kotys-Schwartz said.  She

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said her class is made up of primarily juniors, and often, this is their first hands-on design project. She said her goal is to prepare students to become engineering professionals in a short time by giving them the hands-on experience she felt was lacking in her undergraduate studies.

"For these students, it is their first experience seeing how engineering can benefit society," she said. "I have been telling them, though, to triple the amount of time to expect for this project. I think that is why they have been cursing me all week."
Last year, Kotys-Schwartz had her students create drill-powered vehicles. While she said the event last year was rewarding, she got feedback from the students that they wanted a project that didn't end abruptly and continued giving back.  In response, she implemented the bike-building project.  "There is a lot of pressure on these students because now their assignment is worth more than a grade," Kotys-Schwartz said. "When these students see these kids on the bikes, though, they get to see what they can do as engineers. It all comes to fruition here,"

     Jeremy Gilsdore, a junior mechanical engineering major and student in Kotys-Schwartz's class, said the bike he and his team built is specifically designed for a young boy who has cerebral palsy. Considering the boy has limited movement in his feet, the team members structured their bike to be pedaled by his hands with two levers. No matter if the levers are pulled up or pushed down, the bike will move forward.

     "We finally get to use the hard math to actually do something that will hopefully be beneficial to kids," Gilsdore said. "This project gives us the hands-on experience we don't often see, while giving back to kids who need bikes. I think this is the first time I've ever said I've had fun doing my homework."

     Michael Stonehouse, of Highlands Ranch, came to the event with his 3-year-old twin sons, who both have several disabilities. Stonehouse said one of his sons was so excited to be able to ride a bike, he rode around for 30 minutes.  "These students were able to provide my sons mobility, excitement and happiness," Stonehouse said. "The willingness of these students to help has been so rewarding. It is nice to see this generation care."

     Although the students made the event possible, this event was all about the children. Six-year-old Lorenzo Perez took every advantage of this day of bike riding.  Lorenzo has a prosthetic arm and his knees aren't fully developed. This didn't stop him from running and racing around the courtyard and testing out almost all of the bikes.  "Four groups designed bikes for Lorenzo and he is so excited to see all of them," said Dominic Dimario, a participating student who translated for Lorenzo and his family. "There is nothing better than your first bike, and it's great to see Lorenzo have this opportunity." 

     "My favorite bike is the Spider-Man bike," Lorenzo said. "This is so much fun and it's easy to steer too!"


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