As senior projects a team of graduating engineering students at The University of Toledo worked together to design a “talking bridge” that will honor the University’s 150th anniversary.
Dr. Melissa Gregory, interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and Michael Green, director of sustainability and energy management at UToledo, pitched the “talking bridge” idea to celebrate the University’s sesquicentennial for the College of Engineering’s senior design classes in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (MIME), which are taught by Dr. Liang Cheng, professor and EECS Department Chair, and Dr. Steven Huebner, MIME research professor and executive director of the UToledo Institute of Applied Engineering Research, respectively.
The bridge spanning the Ottawa River, behind the tennis courts, was chosen as the location for the bone conduction railing. By leaning on the railing with your elbows and placing your hands over your ears, you’ll hear audio from memorable moments in UToledo’s history.
Funding for the bone conduction project was from the Student Green Fund.
More than 160 students worked with local businesses, industries and federal agencies to help solve technical and business challenges, with projects ranging from a voice-controlled robotic arm and a tabletop wind tunnel to a static stress analysis of an airplane wing.
The students will present their final prototype alongside more than 45 other team projects as part of the College of Engineering’s Senior Design Expo from noon to 3 p.m. Friday, April 28, on the first floor of Nitschke Hall.
The multi-focused project has spanned the campus, with individuals from varying fields of study lending a hand in making this piece come to life. Sound files were compiled by History students, the original location and idea was thought of by the College of Arts and Letters, the initial prototyping of the railing itself was done by a team of Mechanical Engineering students; and revisions to that prototype, software and electrical design were handled by the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Engineering (EECS) team.
“The idea for the bridge was inspired by a project that memorialized the 1945 bombing of the town Dresden in Germany during World War II,” said team member Ray Vaught. “The memorial piece was installed on the Dresden bridge and used bone conduction technology on a railing to play sounds from the night the town was bombed.”
Through their senior design class, the EECS team researched the Dresden, Germany installation to gain insight into how the creators of the project made their implementation work, the software they needed to develop to control the sound traveling through the railing and the best way to handle the circuit to be implemented within the railing. The Mechanical Engineering team handled the design of the initial prototype.
“As the team continued our process, we noticed issues with the initial design of the railing and began a rigorous testing process of different materials,” said team member Erik Schaefer. “Through testing, we noticed that the steel used in the first iteration prototype had a lot of ‘bleed,’ signifying the amount of sound escaping the railing and traveling through the air around it.”
Team member Hoang Nhat Duy Le added: “Our intention was to have the railing be as silent as possible until an individual interacted with the railing by placing their elbows on it, and aluminum was found to be the best material for the project.”
Seniors will present their final prototypes, provide hands-on demonstrations and answer questions about their experiences at the expo.
Visit the College of Engineering website for information about all of the teams, projects and sponsors.