Since her freshman year, Lauren Graham has attended every single senior design showcase and thought to herself, “one day that’s going to be me.” Due to the many changes made on campus because of COVID-19 concerns, she can no longer reminisce about that thought.
On Mar. 20, Juan Avendano, Florida Tech’s director of student projects, emailed the student design community announcing that the 2020 senior design showcase is canceled. As of Apr. 9, Avendando stated the university is now in the process of creating a virtual showroom for senior design projects.
“Although there’s still hope for a virtual showcase, the cancellation is still a bit upsetting and heart-breaking,” Graham said.
A senior from Georgia majoring in aerospace engineering, Graham and her senior design group were in the process of building a robot that could deposit and mine moon dirt for a NASA mining competition.
According to Graham, the NASA mining competition was canceled on Mar. 25.
“We essentially had all our manufacturing done, and we were close to spending all $4,000 of our budget,” Graham said.
Graham added that since the showcase has been canceled, her group could no longer finish the physical portion of the robot in terms of programming, performance checks and other aspects.
“It’s been a struggle lately,” Graham said.
She added that her group’s grade was based on how well they performed at the NASA mining competition, hence forcing the group to reassess since the competition’s cancellation.
Graham said some of the changes to her project include a heavier emphasis on writing skills and more online testing with some electronics for their robot.
While Graham and her group saw a significant effect on the physical construction of their robot, other senior design groups saw little impact.
Ken Gibbs, an adjunct professor in electrical engineering that has been assisting electrical engineering students with their senior design projects, said that there have been some dramatic impacts on more of the physical projects that have seen a slowdown or halt in the fabrication process.
Lukas Burchianti, a senior majoring in construction management, said that his senior design group has had to make only some slight changes.
“Because our project is not as physical as others, there were not too many changes we saw,” Burchianti said.
Working alongside civil engineers in his senior design group, Burchianti explained that his group’s project was to design a convention center that would be located where the Southgate fields are.
Burchianti said that in addition to switching to online meetings, the main change to their project is that they will no longer be able to make a 3D model of their convention center.
Despite these changes, Burchianti said his group still has the same amount of work to do even though there is no 3D model.
“Our project has essentially become more paper-heavy,” Burchianti said.
Gibbs also said that he has been advising students to look at alternative methods to still work on senior design projects such as more detailed documents and analysis, simulations and processing on computers.
“This is not how we wanted to end the class of 2020,” Gibbs said. “I wish things were different, I miss the student interaction.”
Gibbs added that despite the unfortunate circumstances of the showcase being canceled, he views this as an opportunity for students to flourish in the face of adversity.
“I also hope they [students] understand that the university is still preserving educational outcomes,” Gibbs said.
Florida Tech’s Provost, Korhan Oyman said that since classes have transitioned to online instruction only, modifications have been made to some of the senior design objectives and deliverables.
“For example, students can now replace the specific construction of a component with extended design documents, simulations, and or extended evaluation and reporting,” Oyman said in an email to the Crimson. “Each project was adjusted to allow students to complete the work remotely while maintaining the objectives of the course.”
Oyman also stated that the changes that have been made are consistent with Florida Tech’s accreditation requirements.
According to Avendano Florida Tech plans on developing a virtual showroom for senior design students to upload their posters, ebooks and entries with video explanations. Avendano noted that the showroom will be seimi-open to the public, and all content and student projects will be shared with industry representatives that were planning on attending the senior design showcase. The virtual showroom is expected to be online before graduation, May 9.
“We want this to still be an opportunity for students to seek employment,” Avendano said.
The university is also in the process of creating virtual hands-on seminars such as soldering and 3D printing for current juniors to start their design process early, according to Avendano.