From Prototype to Product

Senior Design Expo students are given the opportunity to turn their year-long research into entrepreneurship ventures.

Nov 17 2022 | By Beatrice Mhando | Photo Credit: Timothy Lee

2022 Columbia Engineering Senior Design Expo showcase

Columbia Engineering seniors gather every May for the Senior Design Expo, a showcase of projects they have worked on the entire academic year. 

With projects spanning nine departments, students are given the opportunity to show what they have learned in their foundational math and science courses combined with engineering courses through innovative, creative, and purposeful designs and prototypes. Each creation aims to fulfill Columbia’s vision to Engineer for Humanity, bringing solutions that will help advance a healthy, sustainable, secure, connected, and creative world. 

The Columbia Engineering seniors who designed the Moss Could Save The Subway project posing in front of their presentation poster

Credit: Timothy Lee

In the most recent showcase this past spring, some projects focused on sustainable solutions to issues around the city, such as Moss Could Save the Subway (Abigail Cawley, GodisPerfect Eadric, Melissa Emerson, Zachariah Gharrafi, Justin Palik). The group suggested moss to remediate air pollutants in the subway to improve station air quality. “It really mattered to us that we were doing this project in NYC as the subway is so integral to our Columbia experience,” Abigail Cawley noted on the importance the city played in their project prototype. Another project focused on problems facing New York City was Calypso (Rohin Modi, Jayson King’ori, Pol Bernat), a project to address loud noise in apartments. This solution interferes with noise passing through spaces, blocking noise at specific frequencies while simultaneously allowing light and air to flow through.

A dental cast held open to demonstrate LUMA

Credit: Timothy Lee

Other projects heavily focused on improving personal and public health. LUMA, (Jui Buamahakul, Leanna Pichay, Justin Saintil, Davin Sethbhaker, Joanne W. Wang) focuses on harnessing light to safely and effectively disinfect root canals. “One-third of these root canals actually fail,” Justin Saintil explained. Their solution effectively utilizes photodynamic therapy to disinfect the tooth from the apex to the root. EMG Wrist-Set (Ji Ku, Saul Partida, Talaya White, Daniel Addison, Marc Sorrentino) focused on applied Electromyography. By reading the potentials of muscle movements from the arm, their prototype could help connect prosthetics to amputees better. Creative projects included a skateboard with remote brakes for beginner skaters, a hands-free chessboard, and a cutting board device that allows users to make perfect cuts while cutting vegetables. 

A Columbia Engineering student brandishes a glove covered in circuitry and wires for the 2022 Senior Design Expo.

Students’ hard work does not have to stop at the showcase–there are many opportunities to turn prototypes into entrepreneurial ventures at the university. Through the Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship program (IDE), students can access resources and programs to introduce their products to the market. Embedded in New York City, one of the world’s largest entrepreneurship ecosystems, Columbia Engineering is a powerful catalyst for those looking for expert mentorship and support for research, development, and infrastructure. Notable startups by university students through IDE include Neopenda, a low-cost, low-power, and low-maintenance method for monitoring a baby’s vital signs in the developing world. Seniors who wish to continue with their project can apply to the Columbia Startup Lab, a resource that provides office space, relevant programming, and community and networking opportunities to help early startups develop their offering.   

From hands-on experience to learning how to quickly and effectively communicate the value of their project, the Senior Design Expo gives seniors a chance to be innovative–and turn their ideas into designs and prototypes that could impact humanity. 

To see the Senior Design Expo in action, check out the 2022 showcase video

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