More than 30 teams present projects in the UNLV design competition

UNLV student Tayler Zolyniak and two classmates came up with a solution to a two-pronged problem at theme parks this past school year.

Theme parks often offer little shade, said Zolyniak, a 21-year-old native of Fernley who is completing his bachelor’s degree in entertainment engineering and design this month.

“They’re often hot, and if you’re outside for a long time, you’re looking for shade,” she says.

And when it rains, everyone disperses, but there’s nowhere to stay dry, Zolyniak said.

The three-person team has developed a possible solution – a prototype of an automated sun and rain cover.

The prototype — also the team’s lead design project for Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering — resembles an umbrella, but has two sensors at the top — one that detects ultraviolet radiation and one that detects rain — and opens as a result.

Ingenuity on display

Her student project is just one of more than 30 projects that will be on display Friday from 1:45 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

The Fred and Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition for engineering and computer science students is held twice a year – fall and spring semesters – and has been running for more than 20 years.

Students develop real solutions to problems and industry representatives assess the projects.

This fall’s projects include a rescue robot, a smart feeder, a breathing apparatus for firefighters and a runoff mitigation solution for Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.

Rama Venkat, Dean of the College of Engineering, said the desire is for students to build economically viable and socially and environmentally meaningful projects – not just something required for a class project.

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“We also wanted them to create local startup companies,” he said, noting that some teams have tried to get their products to market.

“All sorts of innovative things”

The senior design competition is a “flagship event” for the College of Engineering, Venkat said, and the students are excited. “Students build all kinds of innovative things.”

It’s an opportunity for students to apply their engineering skills, said Melissa Morris, associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior design instructor.

The most exciting thing is when they combine their passion with their engineering education and create a physical, working prototype, she said.

Students are paid a “nominal sum” to build a prototype, but have the option to raise money with donors or industry partners, Venkat said, and have access to university facilities to build it.

This varies by department, but participation in the competition is not compulsory for students, although they must complete a design project as a graduation requirement.

Students are strongly encouraged to enter the competition, but it’s not part of their grade, said Morris, who is currently working with senior design students who will enter the spring competition.

However, the vast majority of students attend and look forward to showing off what they’ve been working on over the past year, she said.

Also, prizes in different categories will be given to the winners of the competition.

The Rain or Shine Sanctuary team, consisting of Zolyniak and classmates Denisse Franco and Ramy Goergi, began work on their project in January.

Their prototype is between 6 and 7 feet tall and almost 3 feet in diameter — smaller than what they would ideally be chasing.

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“Due to budget and time constraints, we had to scale it down a bit,” Zolyniak said.

After graduation, Zolyniak has a full-time job ahead of him. In the long term, she aspires to get into the design of amusement parks.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at [email protected] or 702-387-2921. consequences @julieswootton on twitter.

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