Capstone Student Design Projects 2013-2014

Industry Partnered Projects

1. Spacecraft Mechanisms and Deployables – Northrop Grumman (Faculty TBD)

This project is in cooperation and partnership under a gift with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems - Space Systems Division located in Redondo Beach, California. Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

Northrop Grumman is a premier developer, integrator, producer and supporter of manned and unmanned aircraft, spacecraft, high-energy laser systems, microelectronics and other systems and subsystems critical to maintaining the nation’s security and leadership in science and technology. These systems are used, primarily by government customers, in many different mission areas including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; communications; battle management; strike operations; electronic warfare; missile defense; earth observation; space science; and space exploration.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology develops a broad range of systems at the leading edge of space, defense and electronics technology. Building on a heritage of innovation, we create sophisticated products that contribute significantly to the nation's security and leadership in science and technology.

Project Description:

Aerospace Applicability: Mechanisms and deployables are an important aspect of any spacecraft design due to the likely loss of the mission if a failure on deployment occurs. Students will design, build, and test a deployment mechanism that may be used on a variety of spacecraft payloads (antennae, sensors, or caging devices). The resulting design must concurrently meet stringent launch load requirements, controlled deployment parameters, and strict deployed characteristics to ensure mission success. Typical driving parameters include thermal environments, launch loads, deployment speed limits, size and mass, latching mechanisms, deployed stiffness, and reliability. Verification of the design will also require students to develop test fixtures and/or feature simulator(s) that represent the baseline design or enable testing in earth’s gravitational environment.

Specific Project Details: The 2013-2014 team will design and test aspects of a telescopic boom that can support a fixed mass. Telescopic booms are launched in a stowed, compact condition, and linearly deploy a payload to a pre-determined length once on orbit (typically ~2m). The team will be given typical ground, launch, and on orbit environments, and well as physical constraints and boom deployment requirements. The team will perform design trades, and complete a detailed design package to meet the specified requirements and constraints. “Flight” Designs will emphasize weight efficiency, stiffness, composite theory, deployment mechanisms concepts, thermal effects, accuracy of deployment, and deployed feature latching. Additionally, prototype development and testing will be conducted to validate select features of the proposed design (examples: verify joint stiffness predictions, deployment function, accuracy, etc).

Support: Northrop Grumman will provide the detailed initial requirements to the team within the first week of instruction and support early clarification meetings. A Northrop representative will be available via email and telecons throughout the year to answer technical questions or provide guidance where necessary (but not do your work!). Northrop will also attend all course design reviews to support the team. Typically, Northrop Grumman is able to support some manufacturing of student hardware. This support is not guaranteed however and students should plan for completing all tasks and manufacturing all prototypes on their own. Schedule permitting, student team members are typically invited to the Northrop Grumman Facility in the 2nd semester for an informal tour. All students are eligible to participate on the Northrop Grumman sponsored team, however, due to government regulations, non citizens cannot visit our facility.

Telescopic Boom Requirements

Stowed/Launch Requirements and Assumptions

  • Stowed Volume = Cylinder Max
  • Diameter = 6 in.
  • Max Height = 24 in.
  • Maximum Fastener Load imparted on Spacecraft = 5000 N (Shear or Pullout)

Deployment/On-Orbit Requirements And Assumptions

  • Length of Deployed Boom = 2 m
  • Maximum Rotation of Tip = ± 2° from nominal (Designated mechanical “zero”)
  • Deployed Position of Tip = Within 0.01 m radius from nominal (Maximum deployment deviation)
  • Maximum Deflection due to On-Orbit Loads = 0.15 mm in any direction


  • Launch Loads (X,Y,Z) = (±13g, ±13g, ±13g) (may assume no moment input loads from SC)
  • On-Orbit Loads (X,Y,Z) = .01g in any direction (to be used for stability requirement evaluation)
  • Thermal Range: -40 °C to 70 °C (Consider CTE effects of mating material)

General Requirements

  • Boom Assembly Mass Limit = 5 kg (Total mass of all parts required)
  • Payload Mass = 3 kg (Assume rigid mass)
  • Use Yield Safety Factor = 1.25
  • Use Ultimate Safety Factor = 1.40
  • All strength margins should be positive
  • Select materials for end fittings and list strength limits
  • Select ply layup for composite boom segments and list strength limits
  • Analytically determine the frequency of the boom for final design
  • Design must ensure payload will stay deployed by incorporating a locking feature for all boom segments unless equivalent features are proposed and approved
  • Ease of manufacturing parts, fastener access, and overall assembly of boom should also be considered

The company requires US citizenship for all site visits and a Confidential Disclosure Agreement.

Students with an interest in mechanisms and mechanical systems and an interest in the aerospace industry will find this project demanding and technically challenging.

This project may require travel to company facility and may require periodic teleconferences.



2. Deployment Damper – ATK (Faculty TBD)

This project is in cooperation and partnership under a gift with ATK Space Systems located in Goleta. ATK Space Systems in Goleta is a leading producer of deployable space systems. Products include deployable Booms, Solar Arrays, and Stable Structures and Antennas. With over 70 successful Spaceflight Missions, detailed assembly processes and rigorous testing in simulated space environments are key elements in maintaining our 100% mission success. Current programs include the GOES-R Boom, CRS Ultraflex Solar Arrays, NASA Mars Insight, as well as GPS Solar Arrays.

Dampers are standard components for spacecraft in order to achieve controlled motion without external input. Their main function in ATK space structures is to control deployment rates. A typical deployment is driven by the stored energy of a spring, bent beam, or equivalent. This creates the need for motion control, limiting the rate of deployment. In multiple panel solar arrays, fluid dampers are used at the hinge line, controlling a typical 90 degree rotation. For masts, eddy current or friction dampers are used to control the speed of a lanyard paying out of a spinning spool. In all cases, the rate of deployment is not constant. It varies with temperature and load, resulting in inconsistent deployment rates. Improvement of deployment rate variability is the primary focus of this project.

As shown in Figure 1, one type of motion control mechanisms is the eddy current damper. Eddy current dampers are similar to an electrical motor. Permanent magnets are attached to a rotating shaft (rotor), which spins inside of an electrical coil. A braking force is created when the movement of the magnets creates eddy currents in the coil. This generates an opposing magnetic field (Lenz’s law), which then resists the rotation of the rotor, providing braking force. The net result is to convert the motion of the rotors to heat in the rotor.

Eddy current damper

Figure 1. Eddy current damper

Figure 2 shows the damper used on the GOES-R mast assembly.

Figure 2. GOES-R Damper

GOES-R damper

Typical eddy current dampers generate a linear torque vs. speed curve, as shown in figure 3. In addition to linear performance, speed/torque is influenced by operating temperature.

Eddy current damper performance

Figure 3. Eddy Current Damper Performance

Figure 4 shows the performance of a perfect damper, which acts more like a rate governor. Speed is independent of external torque at all temperatures.

Perfect damper performance

Figure 4. Perfect Damper Performance

Figure 5 shows the performance goal for this project. Since a perfect damper is most likely unattainable, the objective of this project is to improve on an existing eddy current damper. Braking torque should be a function of speed, where a given rate variation results in a greater torque variation, measured in % of full scale. The project goal is a torque variation which is double the rate variation.

Project performance goal

Figure 5. Project Performance Goal

Task description:

  1. Document the current state of the damper industry. What eddy current dampers and performance values are available today?
  2. Develop a prototype damper with a torque to speed ratio which is a square function or better
  3. Present an as tested performance curve from 0 to 50 Lb-in at three temperatures.
  4. Any circuits or electrical components used shall be on a breadboard or equivalent. Electronics packaging is not a requirement for this project.
  5. Materials/finishes do not need to be space rated. Any material can be used in the proof of concept model
  6. Maximum envelope excluding electronics: 4” by 4” by 6”
  7. The device must be passive. No external wires or controls to/from the device shall be required for operation.
  8. Torque range: 0 to 50 Lb-in
  9. Temperature range: -80°C to +80°C
  10. Nominal rotation rate: 90°/min. This will most likely require a gear reduction.
  11. Deliver engineering drawings and a working prototype to ATK

Task milestones:

  1. Determine current performance available in industry today
  2. Sketch at minimum three options for improving standard industry damper performance
  3. Down select to a single option
  4. Verify that the method selected to control speed works by testing one or more critical components. Tape, glue, cardboard, and bailing wire are perfectly acceptable at this stage.
  5. Build a breadboard unit
  6. Test the unit over a temperature range of -80°C to +80°C. The lower temperature may be increased due to thermal chamber limitations.

The goal of this project is a proof of concept model. If end item performance is acceptable, the next step is packaging for space use, which is not within the scope of this effort.

Students will be required to sign a Confidentiality Agreement and Invention Agreement.

Students are required to be a United States citizen for all facility site visits.



3. (3A3B see below) – FLIR (Faculty TBD)

This project is in cooperation and partnership under a gift with FLIR Systems located in Goleta.

FLIR Systems, Inc. is the global leader in Infrared cameras, night vision and thermal imaging systems. Our products play pivotal roles in a wide range of industrial, commercial and government activities in more than 60 countries. Pioneers in the commercial infrared camera industry, the Company has been supplying thermography and night vision equipment to science, industry, law enforcement and the military for over 30 years. From predictive maintenance, condition monitoring, non-destructive testing, R&D, medical science, temperature measurement and thermal testing to law enforcement, surveillance, security and manufacturing process control, FLIR offers the widest selection of infrared cameras for beginners to pros.

This year FLIR has proposed 2 projects for consideration. Based upon student preferences, one of these projects will go forward. In addition it is planned that this will also include a Capstone team of ECE students to provide interdisciplinary expertise.

3A. Project Title: Thermal Sensor Grenade

FLIR slide

Project Description:

Statement of Problem: First responders, law enforcement, and the military often face dangerous situations when required to enter an unknown environment that is contains human or environmental threats and when visibility is diminished by smoke and/or lack of light.

Solution Concept: A throwable sensor package that can survive the shock, vibration, heat, and abuse of the hostile environment and that wirelessly transmits to the remote user a high-quality full hemispherical LWIR thermal image that is geo referenced to it’s final resting position.

Project Scope: The concept includes the integration of 12 ultra miniature thermal cameras into a highly ruggedized dodecahedron package. The cameras will be connected to a central processor that integrates the video streams from all cameras and transmits the resulting stream wirelessly to a user’s mobile handset. Additionally, the electronics will include accelerometer, gyro, compass, and GPS sensors to communicate to the user the exact position and orientation of the grenade after it has been thrown into a hostile or dangerous environment and has stabilized in its position. Key design elements required on this project include:

  • Mechanical solutions to package and protect the sensors and power system in highly rugged and environmentally hostile environments
  • Electronics design to integrate inputs from multiple sensors and sensor type and wirelessly transmit the resulting data
  • Development of a battery power system
  • Image processing to interpret input from position sensors then stitch together the image data in a seamless continuous image that is geo-referenced
  • Mobile application development to provide a clear and intuitive user interface

Project Deliverables: The project team will deliver:

  • One fully functioning thermal grenade prototype
  • One mobile application that runs on Android tablet and/or iPad that provides human interface to all grenade functions
  • Fully implemented CAD models in Solidworks format
  • Environmental test results for all key environmental parameters (TBD)
  • Thermal simulation data showing design will survive in specified environments
  • Schematic designs with appropriate simulations
  • PCB layout
  • Source code for firmware operating in Grenade (C++/Linux based preference)
  • Source Code for API that operates on handset platform and provides software interface layer between App and handset drivers
  • Source Code for UI App that runs on handset including image processing algorithms that perform image stitching and geo referencing.

Ideal Student Qualifications:

  • Mechanical engineering with emphasis on structural integrity in very high shock and vibration environments
  • Electrical engineering with emphasis on embedded processing, sensor interface, real-time image data flow, and wireless networking.
  • Algorithm development with emphasis on image processing.
  • Embedded software with emphasis on Linux-based systems (preferred), real-time image data manipulations, and wireless networking
  • User interface software with emphasis on mobile handset platforms.
  • Students are required to be a United States citizen for all facility site visits.

Assets Provided by the Company:

  • Miniature Thermal Cameras
  • Access to mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering expertise as required
  • Access, on as available basis, to environmental test facilities at FLIR


3B. Project Title: Automotive Night Vision


Project Description:

Electronic gadgets

Statement of Problem: Flir provides an aftermarket night vision systems kit to equip any vehicle. The installation is time consuming and imposes the car owner to find a place to fix the display.

Solution Concept: Design a waterproof box that will transmit the video signal via Wi-Fi to an Android phone or tablet to dramatically reduce the installation time and cost and enabling any customers to use their own phone.

Project Scope: The concept includes the creation of a highly ruggedized ECU box that will be mounted under the hood of the vehicle. The ECU box will convert the video streams from the cameras and transmits the video image wirelessly to a mobile handset. Key design elements required on this project include:

  • Mechanical solutions to package the ECU unit in highly rugged and environmentally hostile environments
  • Electronics design to convert the video streams from the cameras and transmits the video image wirelessly to a user’s mobile handset
  • Mobile application development to provide a clear and intuitive user interface

Project Deliverables: The project team will deliver:

  • One fully functioning Wi-Fi night vision prototype
  • One mobile application that runs on Android tablet and/or iPad that provides human interface to the camera functions
  • Fully implemented CAD models in Solidworks format
  • Environmental test results for all key environmental parameters (TBD)
  • Thermal simulation data showing design will survive in specified environments
  • Schematic designs with appropriate simulations
  • PCB layout
  • Source code for firmware operating system (C++/Linux based preference)
  • Source Code for API that operates on handset platform and provides software interface layer between App and handset drivers
  • Source Code for UI App that runs on handset.

Student Requirements: Team participants will be required to:

  • Sign non-disclosure forms with FLIR to limit outside disclosure of certain proprietary information relating to supplied thermal cameras
  • Sign agreements that provide FLIR with access to any intellectual property developed during the project

Ideal Student Qualifications:

  • Mechanical engineering with emphasis on structural integrity in very high shock and vibration environments
  • Electrical engineering with emphasis on embedded processing, real-time image data flow, and wireless networking.
  • Algorithm development with emphasis on image processing.
  • Embedded software with emphasis on Linix-based systems (preferred), real-time image data manipulations, and wireless networking
  • User interface software with emphasis on mobile handset platforms.
  • Students are required to be a United States citizen for all facility site visits.

Assets Provided by the Company:

  • Thermal Cameras
  • Access to mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering expertise as required Access, on as available basis, to environmental test facilities at FLIR


3C. Project Title: Thermal Tire Monitor integrated with Data Logging



3D. Project Title: People Counting Camera Project




4. Next Generation Anti Reflection Coating Fixturing For Infrared Sensor Chip Assemblies - Raytheon (Faculty TBD)

This project is in cooperation with Raytheon Vision Systems, based in Goleta.

Raytheon Vision Systems develops and produces state-of-the-art detection and imaging devices for applications in the x-ray, visible, infrared, terahertz and millimeter wave regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. RVS is well regarded as an intellectual and technological development leader. A complex of buildings that house development laboratories, offices, and manufacturing facilities provide RVS with world class capability for development and fabrication of top of the line sensing products. This RVS site, located in Goleta, California, employs approximately 1,000 people with functional organizations engaged in research and development, design engineering, and manufacturing.

Students will have an opportunity to visit and work closely with industry engineers responsible for the development of cutting edge next generation technology on site.

Project Purpose:

RVS’s reputation as a premier world class provider of infrared sensors is in part due to the unique crystallographic material that is developed, grown and processed on site. This highly specialized material varies in shape from squares to rectangles and also comes in multiple sizes. Assembly processing of infrared detectors at RVS includes applying anti reflection (AR) coating. The purpose of this project is to explore and develop new low cost methods for fixturing detectors of various sizes and materials while the AR coating is applied. The AR coating process is critical to the product, well established, and must be maintained. Improved fixturing and handling is required to improve cost and manufacturing cycle time efficiencies.

Project Scope:

While working with industry leading engineers, students can expect to gain a solid concept of basic semiconductor properties, tooling and manufacturing techniques. That understanding will be critical to the design and fabrication of tooling capable of AR coating next generation infrared detectors. Tooling will need to be class 5 cleanroom compatible and allow for easy removal and precision remounting of various size and shape IR sensor chips. AR coating is applied to a specific region on the detector surface to close tolerances via a thin film deposition vacuum chamber. Some key critical considerations for the tooling will be: must be vacuum compatible; must not particulate; must be electrically conductive; must be ergonomic. Fixturing may be fabricated using conventional machining, direct digital manufacturing, laser machining, chemical machining, etc.

Students interested in Manufacturing Engineering, Process Engineering, Industrial Engineering and the semi-conductor industry should find this project challenging and reward. The demands for fixturing to improve handling and production efficiencies while maintaining precision and tolerance requirements should prove challenging.

Student Requirements:

US citizenship or permanent resident
Proprietary Information Agreement and Invention Agreement
The students will also need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship such as a copy of a passport or birth certificate. An electronic pdf copy is fine.

Ideal Student Qualifications:

An ideal candidate will be one who is familiar with mechanical design programs, willing explore micro-electronic processing equipment in a cleanroom environment, to be hands on, ready to learn and capable of developing innovative solutions. Students will be expected to interact with Raytheon engineering on an ongoing basis and visit the site regularly. Familiarity with a cleanroom environment is helpful but not necessary.



5. Shunt Demo Kit – Medtronic Neurosurgery (Laguette)

This project is in cooperation and partnership under a gift with Medtronic Neurosurgery located in Goleta.

Medtronic Neurosurgery (MNS) is a local medical device company that is a leader in the field of neurosurgical implants and devices. Medtronic is the global leader in medical technology, alleviating pain, restoring health and extending life for millions of people around the world. MNS is a world leader in the design and manufacture of implants and devices intended to treat hydrocephalus.

Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. Hydrocephalus means "water on the brain." Hydrocephalus is due to a problem with the flow of the fluid that surrounds the brain. This fluid is called the cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. It surrounds the brain and spinal cord, and helps cushion the brain. CSF normally moves through the brain and the spinal cord, and is soaked into the bloodstream. CSF levels in the brain can rise if:

  • The flow of CSF is blocked
  • It does not get absorbed into the blood properly
  • Your brain makes too much of it

Too much CSF puts puts pressure on the brain. This pushes the brain up against the skull and damage brain tissue. Hydrocephalus may begin while the baby is growing in the womb. It is common in babies who have a myelomeningocele, a birth defect in which the spinal column does not close properly.

Long-term implants known as Shunts have been used to treat hydrocephalus for more than 50 years. The devices allow excess cerebrospinal fluid to drain to another area of the body. A Shunt usually consists of two catheters and a one-way valve. The valve regulates the amount, flow direction, and pressure of cerebrospinal fluid out of the brain’s ventricles. As the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid inside the brain increases, the one-way valve opens and the excessive fluid drains to the downstream cavity.

Typically, the fluid gets "shunted" (moved) using the following shunt types:

  • A ventriculoperitoneal shunt moves fluid from the ventricles of the brain to the abdominal cavity
  • A ventriculoatrial shunt moves fluid from the ventricles of the brain to a chamber of the heart
  • A lumboperitoneal shunt moves fluid from the lower back to the abdominal cavity

Medtronic is one of leading suppliers of hydrocephalic shunts in the world and provides a wide variety of products and systems. Sales representatives must provide a technical understanding for their customers (neurosurgeons and other health care professionals) to better understand their selection of products.

Project Description

Project Purpose:
The shunt demo kit is to be used by sales representatives to show the hydrodynamic behavior of shunt valves, Medtronic and competitors. A new shunt demo kit is desired that fits in a suitcase, is easy/fool-proof to set up, and is robust.

Project Scope:
The scope would be ideally to produce a working prototype kit in a suitcase. This would include constant flow and siphon conditions.  It needs to be self-contained,  compact, portable, quick to set up and durable.  It will usually be demonstrated at the customer’s site.  Our current one-off system has sensors that connect to a lap top to show flow rates and pressures graphically but is a bit complicated to set up.

Expected project deliverables upon completion of the project:
The deliverables should be the working kit and a set of user guidelines that can be used to explain hydrodynamics to the customers. These can range from nurse PAs to neurosurgeons, so the guides have to be clear. The students will really need to understand the material to be able to communicate this.

Students interested in the medical industry will find this project interesting and challenging. This is an opportunity to work with industry engineers, scientists and marketing executives.

Students will be required to sign a Confidentiality Agreement and Invention Agreement.

Website: and


6. Syringe Filling System – Applied Silicone (Faculty TBD)

This project is in cooperation and partnership under a gift from Applied Silicone Corporation. Applied Silicone Corporation, based in Santa Paula, a leading producer of silicone, supplies raw material and technical and regulatory support to manufacturers of FDA registered long term implantable devices used in neurological, orthopedic, urological, cardiovascular, reconstructive and general surgery.


There are many commercially available syringe filling machines. These systems fail to address issues with handling silicone materials. Existing suck-back technology does not provide an adequate break in the product stream when preparing to fill the next syringe leading to inaccuracies in metering and inconsistent dispensing. Hence, this current syringe filling technology is labor intensive and results in a substantial amount of wasted product.

Project Description

This project combines the key engineering practices of good mechanical design, hardware specification, contamination control, electronic control interfacing, computer programming, and quality control.

Engineering Deliverables:

  • When completed, the system must be tested with the actual silicone components: The system will be supplied silicone from a SEMCO cartridge dispenser.
  • It must be able to accurately meter and dispense volumes between 2 and 100 cm3.
  • The system should be automated to minimize the amount of operator interaction for filling and syringe assembly.
  • It will need to be designed such that it can be easily disassembled and cleaned for product change over.
  • The final system appearance should reflect its commercial viability.

Student Requirements:

  • Must be students in good standing with US Citizenship or valid Student Green Card.
  • This project may require travel to company facility in Santa Paula.
  • A signed Non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is also required.

Students interested in designing and developing a production-ready system or equipment will find this project to be demanding and challenging. Students interested in Process Engineering and Industrial Engineering should find this project challenging and rewarding.

Ideal candidates will be skilled in mechanical design using SolidWorks and in executing the design into a working hardware prototype including appropriate PLC interfaces for remote operation.

It should be noted that a successful design will be commercially viable. Students will be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and any successful design resulting from this project will be licensed to Applied Silicone Corporation without fee.



7. (TBD) – Applied Vision Systems (Faculty TBD)



8. Mechanical Clutch Release Bone Screw Driver – Nuvasive (Faculty TBD)

This project is in cooperation and partnership with NuVasive located in San Diego.

NuVasive is a bio-medical company founded in 1997 on a commitment to develop better surgical solutions for spine patients. Today, NuVasive continues to revolutionize minimally disruptive surgical solutions, allowing surgeons to treat spine conditions while minimizing the surgical trauma experienced. NuVasive procedures have consistently garnered exceptional results – shorter surgical times, less tissue damage, less blood loss, quicker release from the hospital, and a more rapid return to normal activities.

The majority of the spine market is concentrated on fixing the degeneration of discs. Other problems include but are not limited to: tumor, trauma, infection and instability. NuVasive’s business is centered around a unique and nominal spine surgical technique that revolutionized the way in which surgeons address and tackle these problems. As opposed to a typical anterior (front) or posterior (back) surgical approach, NuVasive became the pioneers of a patented, lateral (side) surgical procedure. This procedure, known as XLIF (Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion), permits safe and easy access to the lateral aspect of the spine while preventing excess blood loss and limiting the morbidity of the surgery (resulting in quicker patient recovery).

A common problem in surgery is coming in contact and harming nerves en route to the spine. Therefore, a key compliment to the XLIF procedure is a nerve detection system. This device works with the XLIF instrumentation, reading electrical signals from the nerves that send audible feedback to the surgeon. The audible feedback allows the surgeon to dictate his instrument location with respect to surrounding nerves. This way, the surgeon can find the safest route to the spine without damaging any nerves.

NuVasive is the fourth largest spine company with top competitors such as Medtronic, DePuy, and Stryker. Their portfolio includes products for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine as well as the previously mentioned nerve detection system. NuVasive has more than 1,000 employees world-wide and is located in San Diego, CA.

Project Background:

A cervical plate is a spinal implant used during what is referred to as an ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion) procedure to provide neck stability (like an internal, permanent cast), enhance fusion rates and minimize the need for a neck brace following surgery. More information regarding how the product is used is available online via Google “ACDF surgery” searches.

DESIGN BACKGROUND: To help achieve fusion between two vertebrae, a cervical plate must be rigidly fixated to the vertebral bodies; fixation is achieved via bone screws. Bone screws are similar to machine screws; however, they usually have custom thread forms and drive features and are made of biocompatible materials (i.e. titanium alloy). Surgeons use a variety of hand-driven screw drivers to implant these bone screws. These manual drivers enable precise control of location and depth of the bone screw but can be tedious and time consuming to use. A drill-powered driver option may be preferred.

Project Proposal:

Students must propose a design for a Powered Bone Screw Driver surgical instrument. The driver must attach to and retain a cervical bone screw (to be provided). Below is a list of specific requirements:

  1. Torque Release/Clutch Feature:
    1. To prevent stripping or over tightening of the screw, the instrument must automatically stop driving the screw 2mm prior to contacting the cervical plate (despite continuous torque input from the drill – i.e. like the clutch in a car).
      1. Must be able to accommodate multiple screw lengths (12-18mm, 2mm increments).
  2. Screw Retention:
    1. The driver tip must engage and retain a bone screw, and easily release it once placed.
      1. Must have retention strength of 0.5 lbs.
  3. Torque:
    1. The instrument must withstand 15 of torque.
    2. Students must choose a drive feature (i.e. phillips head, square head, hex, etc.) for the bone screw.
  4. Material Selection:
    1. The instrument must be manufactured using surgical grade stainless steel.

Students must conduct relevant patent research as well as benchmark current products in order to provide a viable design proposal. ASTM standards and FDA regulations should also be considered when working with medical instruments and devices.

Prototype/Proof of concept expectations:

  • Students must provide complete CAD package – including drawings and models.
  • Students may provide CAD models in .STP format to have NuVasive SLA 3D print proof of concept.
  • Students must prototype individual mechanisms – as one full assembly or as separate sub-assemblies in order to perform testing.

Students will be required to sign a Confidentiality Agreement and Invention Agreement.


9. (see 9A below) – Pacific Design Technologies (Faculty TBD)

This project is in cooperation with Pacific Design Technologies (PDT), based in Goleta, California. PDT specializes in fluid handling products and systems. PDT supports the aerospace and defense industry with innovative, customized solutions for a variety of challenges in the areas of liquid cooling, fuel controls and hydraulics. PDT products are utilized on military and commercial aircraft, missiles, land vehicles and spacecraft.

Founded in April 2000, Pacific Design Technologies, Inc. is a small business concern with a highly experienced staff of engineers, designers, technicians, and administrative support with a long history of design and fabrication of thermal management and heat transfer systems and their related components.

Pacific Design Technologies, Inc. offers innovative solutions to the Aerospace, Defense, and Space markets in the areas of liquid cooling and circulation pumps, accumulators, thermal control valves and integrated thermal management systems.

We specialize in positive displacement and centrifugal pump designs for use with a variety of fluids such as PAO (Polyalphaolefin), EGW (Ethylene Glycol and Water), PGW (Propylene Glycol and Water), Freon, Fuel, Lube and Hydraulic Oils, De-ionized Water, and Liquid CO2.

PDT's Products include:

  • Gear & Gerotor Pumps
  • Centrifugal Pumps
  • Edge-Welded Bellows Accumulators
  • Piston Accumulators
  • Thermal Control Valves
  • Pressure Relief Valves
  • Bypass Valves
  • Sensor Equipped Manifolds
  • System Controllers
  • Brushless DC Motor Controllers

Our strength is in the packaging of components and systems with severe space and weight constraints to meet stringent military and space requirements.

PDT has proposed 2 projects for consideration. Based upon student preferences, one of these projects will go forward.

Interested students may select one or more of the following projects:

9A. Design of a standardized fluid flow test stand. The test stand would include the means to test a range of polyalphaolefin (PAO) products such as filters, thermal control valves, flow control valves, heat exchangers and shutoff/diverter valves. Instrumentation would be included and controlled via a pc with LabView data collection and display. Additional features could be added to incorporate test data sheet generation, if desired. The test stand would include a pump, reservoir, filter, control valves and quick disconnects. Provisions would be included to provide a.c. and D.C. power to operate the typical test items. The project scope would be to generate a test stand requirements document, bill of material, detail part drawings, LabView operating system and operating/maintenance manual. Due to the scope of the project, it may bridge more than one Capstone session, or be broken into more than one team operating in parallel.

9B. Design of a standardized assembly station for pumps.


9C. Design of a standardized assembly station for accumulators.


9D. Materials research and selection for positive displacement pump.



Research Partnered Projects

10. Development of a Disposable, Continuous, Skin Moisture Sensor – Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (Laguette)

Both sub-projects are CANCELLED.

10A. Development of a Disposable, Continuous, Skin Moisture Sensor


10B. Development of Low Cost Patient Pressure Sensors



11. Materials Science Education Outreach in Soft Robotics (Faculty TBD)

This project will be under the direction of Frank Kinnaman of MRL Education Outreach.


The primary desired outcome for this project is the exploration of a variety of established and novel methods of fabricating pneumatically powered silicone “soft robots”. We are interested in engaging K-12 science students and their teachers in simple air-powered soft robotics because of its potential for generating interest in materials science related areas of active research (such as microfluidics) and its connections with existing curricula. Response to our efforts thus far has been encouraging, with its inherently tactile nature soft robotics is an opportunity to engage the public in materials science that they can touch and feel. We foresee imaginative outcomes to this project but further progress and refinement of methods is needed.

Project Description

Much of our effort thus far has necessarily been in exploring technique, utilizing desktop fabrication tools (3d printing) to create molds for various soft robotics prototypes including basic “crawler” and “gripper” models. With a capstone team we would continue and accelerate these efforts, in particular the use of a recently developed “seamless” method using a lost wax technique. The basic workflow of soft robotic fabrication includes CAD design, 3d printing of the molds, wax and silicone rubber casting and eventually solenoid valve operation/programming using microcontrollers. Small changes to each design can result in dramatic performance differences; we see this project as an iterative process. The team will be required to apply for a URCA grant to defray the cost of consumable materials for the project.


Biological systems integrate materials in unprecedented ways - for example researchers at UCSB have found that the Humboldt squid has a beak that is exceptionally hard yet still manipulated easily by its soft body (the mechanical analogy is a razor blade in jello). The field of robotics is currently moving beyond conventional rigid pieces to the use of soft materials, such as polymers and gels, to mimic such designs in living systems. Importantly, the materials and tools that are used to make soft robotics are readily available, making soft robotics significant more accessible and inexpensive than conventional robotics.

Inspired by the work of the Whitesides group at Harvard University we have implemented a pilot project to test the suitability of Soft Robotics for K-12 education. Teachers and student reception of our preliminary efforts in soft robotics has been exceptional. Our first project, a primitive “tentacle”, was carried out by a local high school science teacher as part of a MRL sponsored curriculum project during the summer of 2012. In fall of 2012 we slowly refined the proper technique to construct other robot models. In December of 2012 a small group of middle school students designed their own robots with great enthusiasm, followed by similar efforts by a group of high school students in January 2013. In January 2013 these results were presented to a group of teachers in the MRL’s “Models and Materials” project. Their written feedback demonstrates the synergy between science and engineering:

“Soft robotics can be used to integrate engineering and biology”
“Soft materials provide solutions to engineering challenges”
“Soft robotics—demos were very applicable to life science”
“Interesting to hear the difficulties and limitations with these two specific materials”
“Engineering is so much more than force diagrams”
“Importance of research and trial and error experiment”
“Soft robotics—great application to body systems”

In Spring 2013 we began exploration of a new type of fabrication technique as the shortcomings in the models up to this point were numerous. Results are encouraging from this and an example can be seen in the brief video “3 good legs crawler #2 7.15.13” which was presented successfully in July 2013 at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum “Tinker Festival” event:

A compelling aspect of this project includes eventually presenting these projects at our MRL annual science teacher workshop event every March.

Various soft robotic prototypes have been fabricated during this project thus far. Our most recent explorations have been encouraging in the area of device resiliency, a primary goal of this project. Equally important for this outreach project are accessible methods, so that once a working model is achieved others with limited budgets and resources can replicate the project. Our reliance on 3d printing we feel is reasonable due to the recent explosion in budget 3d printers and printing services.

Four classes of robot are targeted as possible projects. In the order of proposed exploration they are worm, crawler, gripper and tentacle (the simple single chamber worm can be considered a precursor for the other models). Most of our work up until now has been focused on the first three robots and the methods for all of these efforts can be separated into two distinct segments: “Whitesides inspired” and “seamless”. The initial explorations closely followed the methods of the pioneers in the field (Whitesides: but were mostly abandoned due to serious problems in replicating the good results in the “slab” type of method they employed. Although the mold fabrication is straightforward for this method most of the models failed along the glued seam of the layers of the robot. The current seamless method of exploration (partly inspired by independent work of M Borgetti removes this interface by casting the devices as a single piece and melting out a suspended wax insert (the wax melts at approx. 50C, a temperature the silicone rubber can withstand). New challenges are certainly encountered in this method but initial results are that it is overall a superior approach. With some research into both methods we propose this as the area the capstone team will explore. A critical area to develop is the shape of the wax inserts, varying the thickness in certain portions of the wax inserts along with removing any corners (smoothing) are certainly key areas to optimize here. A product of this project will be a set of guidelines for design of these wax inserts – these guidelines could be applied to designing any of the particular “species” of soft robot. Other parameters include wall thickness and the amount of branching of each insert (branching creates internal walls which generate more force for movement).


A set of photos showing the molds and wax for a crawler model:
similar work with a prototype gripper:
first exploration of the seamless method using paraffin wax:
Earlier use of the “whitesides” slab method:

We are confident that with proper attention, the team will be able to deliver functional pneumatically powered soft robots with simple repeatable and reliable manufacturing methods. Our primitive steps towards these goals have demonstrated proof of concept but have been hindered by engineering hurdles that a capstone team should very nicely overcome. Please contact Frank Kinnaman ( with any questions.

Project Description video link:


12. Vibrational Energy Harvesting Fixture (Moehlis)

This project will be under the direction of Louis Van Blarigan a graduate student in the Moehlis Lab.

The Moehlis research group has developed a nonlinear vibrational energy harvester that shows great promise for expanding the bandwidth of energy harvesting devices. The device consists of a buckled piezoelectric beam which changes shape in response to a vibrational stimulus. Piezoelectric portions of the beam transform some of the vibrational energy into electrical energy. Incorporating the nonlinear effects of a buckled beam allows the device to respond to single frequency inputs with very complex behaviors which have been found to be periodic, quasi-periodic, and chaotic, depending on the input frequency and amplitude. The device is clamped into a fixture which is attached to a shaker and driven by a set of LabVIEW virtual instruments. The electrical output of the beam (a voltage signal) is measured across a resistor with the same set of programs that generate the stimulus. Currently research is underway to develop a reduced order mathematical model of the system.

Project Description

Our experimental device requires a fixture to hold it in the appropriate equilibrium position and rigidly attach it to the armature of the shaker. This is currently done using several aluminum beams bolted together. See Figure 1. The problem with the current fixture is that it displays resonance in the frequency range of interest. While these resonances can be measured and compensated for, it makes it very difficult to compare to a mathematical model that assumes the fixture is perfectly rigid. The purpose of this project is to design a fixture which places all mechanical resonances outside of the frequency range from 20 to 500 Hertz.

There are a few requirements for the configuration of the fixture that complicate the design process. First, the length of the beam needs to be adjustable while maintaining the proper clamping orientation, ideally through some sort of micrometric stage. There needs to be enough room between the device and the fixture that no contact occurs even when the beam experiences large deformations. Both ends of the beam need to be electrically connected to the data acquisition device without putting strain on the electrical connections. The fixture needs to be light enough that it doesn’t require a

Fixture with beam and electrical connections
Figure 1: Existing fixture with beam and electrical connections.

large amount of power to make it vibrate. Due to the complicated requirements of the fixture, frequency analysis will most likely need to be done by a finite element program.



Students involved with this project will not be required to sign any non-disclosure agree-ments, and the experiment is located on the UCSB campus, so no special access or travel will need to be arranged. A qualified candidate will demonstrate experience with the basic portions of the project, such as a familiarity with the structure of LabVIEW pro-gramming, an introduction to finite element analysis and solid modeling, and a basic understanding of resonance phenomena.


Limited funding is available for the project. This project will also require applying for an URCA grant to provide funding.


13. Vapor deposition system to assist microfluidic device fabrication (Faculty TBD)



14. Precision alignment fixture for laser cutting microfluidic components (Faculty TBD)

Sponsor: CNSI Microfluidics Lab

Description: Our lab uses a computer-controlled CO2 laser to fabricate components for microfluidic devices. We have developed several fixtures for securing material in the laser. Some designs require aligning laser patterning on one side of a substrate with patterns on the other side. To accomplish this we need a fixture that will allow us to flip the substrate over while maintaining its x-y position. It is expected that the team will deliver a complete, tested, well documented system that is ready for regular use in the Microfluidics Lab.

Skills gained working on this project:

  • Machining
  • Precision machine design
  • Laser cutting of polymer and glass substrates

For more information contact David Bothman,


15. Free Electron Laser high voltage control mechanism (Faculty TBD)

Sponsor: Prof. Mark Sherwin, Physics Department, Institute for Terahertz Science and Technology

The Free Electron Laser (FEL) at UCSB is used to generate terahertz (1012 Hz) electromagnetic radiation to support physics, materials, electronics and biological research. ( The main 6 MV accelerator column is housed in a three-story vessel that is filled with pressurized SF6 gas. Within the vessel are decks separated by 1MV potentials. Different operating and maintenance conditions require that different decks be shorted together or insulated from each other to produce the desired voltage profile.

We would like a team of Mechanical Engineering students to design and build an automated shorting system to replace the cumbersome manual system that we use now. The students will work closely with the lab’s research engineers to learn about the FEL and would then build a system that lab staff would install when the accelerator is opened for maintenance. To ensure safety, students would not be working with high voltages.

The lab expects the team to build and test a prototype shorting bar mechanism, and deliver a complete design package for a system that the machine shop can fabricate and lab staff can install when the accelerator is off-line for maintenance.

Skills gained working on this project:

  • Machining
  • Machine design
  • High-voltage physics
  • Servo-control systems


16. Microscope environmental chamber for cell mechanics research (Faculty TBD)



17. Temperature-controlled stage for cell mechanics research (Faculty TBD)



18. Strain Mapping System Calibrator Mount (Zok/Fields)



19. Strain Mapping System Illuminator (Faculty TBD)



20. Instrumented Polymer Indenter (Faculty TBD)



21. TBD - EWB project (Bothman)



22. Mini Baja Car Competition (Faculty TBD)

This project is a collegiate competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).The object of the competition is to provide SAE student members with a challenging project that involves the planning and manufacturing tasks found when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market. Teams compete against one another to have their design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm. Students must function as a team to not only design, build, test, promote, and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules, but also to generate financial support for their project and manage their educational priorities.

This project will require outside fund raising through a university affiliated organization. Contest rules are available for review on the SAE website.

Please visit:

This project may be limited to a sub-system design in the context of course requirements.

It is desired to complete a functional vehicle capable of competition.

Independent fund raising efforts will be necessary to fully support the project needs including travel for the competition.

(This year we may allow up to 2 teams.)



Additional Research Partnered Projects


23. Space Based and Airborne Lightweight Adaptive Structures (Lubin)



24. Directed Energy Planetary Defense (Lubin)

Research Partner - This project will be under the direction of Prof. Philip Lubin of the Physics department. His research interests are in studies of the early universe and in developing new and unique instruments, detectors and telescopes for this purpose. His work includes ground based from the South Pole and White Mountain, balloon borne (40 Km altitude), space based systems and recently planetary defense. Many of his research interests can be found on his web page

Project Description - Directed energy systems have evolved to the point that it is feasible to consider a serious effort in planetary defense to protect the Earth against large asteroids and comets. In the distant past many mass extinctions of life have occurred due to large asteroid and comet impacts. The dinosaurs are thought to have been killed about 65 million years ago by a 10 km diameter asteroid for example. In the past approximately 100 years several large impacts we recorded in Russia with the 1908 Tunguska event being an air burst of about a 50 meter diameter asteroid with an energy of approximately 15 MT (megatons) and on Feb 15 of this year a 17-20 meter diameter asteroid with an equivalent yield of 500 KT (kiloton) hit. Such events are not uncommon and were they to impact over a city the potential for loss of life runs into the hundreds of thousands to millions. Recent advances in photonics makes possible directed energy systems with sufficient power to vaporize or deflect even the largest known threats. Our group has been working on the design of a planetary defense system utilizing a phased array of laser sufficient to begin evaporation of all known elements starting at 1 AU (mean distance to the Sun from Earth). The system is completely modular and scalable and can be built up in segments that are immediately useful. Small systems can be used to vaporize orbiting space debris for example while mid sized systems can be used against comets and smaller asteroids with the larger system capable of full defense. While futuristic in concept the system does not rely on any technological miracles but does require innovation in the design, fabrication and metrology or large space structures.

Project Scope - In this project we will designing small (meter scale) to large (km scale) phased array laser systems. Critical elements are reduction of mass to allow for launch of the sub elements in modern launch vehicles. We will explore the design of large self assembled structures and will work closely with some of our partners. We will also explore the design of small ground based and sub orbital platforms. The physics of laser - material interactions will be explored to form the basis for understanding how such a system would work. The metrology of such a system and the inclusion of the metrology signal into the servo loop is crucial in such a system.

Student Requirements – Passionate desire to excel. This is a challenging project of significant importance to industry and future space programs as well as molds for commercial systems such as surfboards and car parts.

Student Qualifications – Ideally a mix of students who understand and can apply complex FEA modeling and who desire to delve into large space structures. Students will learn elements of phased array design and space based laser metrology.

For more info:
A recent SPIE talk abstract is here:

capstone projects