For JHU’s Engineering Design Day, students perfect their pitches and showcase their prototypes
In locations across Johns Hopkins on Tuesday, engineering students will present the projects they’ve spent a semester or more working on as part of Engineering Design Day—the annual year-end Whiting School of Engineering event in which students tasked with designing solutions to real-world problems display their research, devices, and prototypes.
Take for example Irving Nestor, a junior in computer engineering, and Alex Bocchieri, a junior in electrical engineering, who since January have led a team of fellow undergrads in building a device to scan the body for skin cancer lesions.
Their concept, DermaScan, is part of a system developed by Jin Kang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering with a joint appointment in the School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology. Building on designs developed by prior engineering teams, they built a device similar to an X-ray scanner at the airport that uses six cameras arranged in a vertical stack to obtain a full 360-degree view of the body for mapping the location of skin lesions.
“Like in Google Earth, where you can drag the picture and see a view from every angle, each array of photos would be stitched together to make a 3D image of the body,” Bocchieri says.
Nestor and Bocchieri say the Design Day challenge forced them to work strategically as a team—along with first-year computer engineering major Bryan Birthwright and first-year electrical engineering majors Michael Kalanik, Patrick Kelly, and Timothy Lee.
“It has been a learning experience in the limits and the benefits of working with a group of people,” says Nestor, who was the team’s leader. “We learned how to collaborate, and how to pull the best ideas out of people. It prepares you for that teamwork aspect of working in tech companies in the future.”
Design Day also challenges students to come up pitches and presentations to deliver in front of an audience of sponsors and strangers.
“It is extremely difficult to condense all the work you’ve done and all the things you’ve learned into a product pitch that’s only a few minutes,” says Nicholas Durr, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and the undergraduate program director for the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “It’s an incredibly valuable skill in the real world—not just in entrepreneurship, but other career paths as well.”
For senior Ukrit Rojanasena, who will graduate this spring with a degree in materials science and engineering, Design Day has been a favorite part of his education—and a major draw for him to return for his graduate degree at Johns Hopkins after he gains work experience in the industry. Since September, he and his team have worked with Ivan Borrello, an associate professor of oncology at the School of Medicine, and Tim Weihs and Orla Wilson in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to develop a device that streamlines the process of extracting bone marrow for patients with blood or bone marrow diseases. Their device couples with the existing system to transform the conventional extraction method into a pump system without changing the current work flow.
“Our goal is for our students to move beyond theoretical knowledge—built on an excellent foundation in science, math, and engineering disciplines—and to graduate as engineers,” says Ed Schlesinger, dean of the Whiting School. “Design Day celebrates the energy, creativity, and innovation of our students, who, provided with great opportunity, outstanding faculty mentoring, and access to cutting-edge facilities and materials, consistently exceed expectations.”