Iowa State mechanical engineering students to show off their design ideas

AMES, Iowa - One team of Iowa State University mechanical engineering students has designed a simple device to sort coffee beans. Another team designed a low-cost prosthesis. And another has designed a new kind of grain bin.

Their assignment in Mechanical Engineering 270 (Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Design) was to design something to create sustainable economic activity for a developing country.

Those teams of students - plus teams from Mechanical Engineering 415 (Mechanical Systems Design), Mechanical Engineering 466 (Multidisciplinary Engineering Design) and Mechanical Engineering 486 (Appropriate Technology Design) - will show off their projects during the department of mechanical engineering's first Design Expo.

The Design Expo will be noon-4 p.m. Dec. 7 in Howe Hall on the west side of the Iowa State campus. Nearly 200 students are expected to display posters, prototypes and other examples of their engineering work. The event is free and open to the public.

W. Ross Morrow - an Iowa State assistant professor of mechanical engineering with a courtesy appointment in economics - and Erin MacDonald - an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, art and design and the Michael and Denise Mack 2050 Challenge Scholar - brought the Design Expo to Iowa State after seeing it work at the University of Michigan and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If this first Design Expo at Iowa State goes well, Morrow said he expects it will be a part of every semester.

Morrow said there are two primary goals for the expo: Demonstrate the students' engineering work and give students the opportunity to display and explain their projects.

"Having to pitch their project is an important learning experience for the student teams," Morrow said. "This is the basic format for talking to management about a project - you don't have a lot of time to explain your ideas, and you need to make a big impression. We are excited about what the students have to share. They have worked very hard on these design projects and deserve this opportunity to showcase their accomplishments to the public."