NASHVILLE (TSU NEWS SERVICE) – Tennessee State University engineering and computer science students are taking on some major challenges that could be helpful to the nation’s military forces.
Recently, they put their engineering calculations and theories to test to solve a real-world problem facing the U.S. Air Force.
The students, all six from the College of Engineering, joined other students from across the United States to participate in the annual University Design Challenge sponsored by the US Air Force Research Lab at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida.
In this year’s competition, students were challenged to build a portable bridge that could be used by a soldier or airman in a variety of situations.
Specifically, the students were asked to design a device that would allow military Special Operations personnel to cross over up to 20-foot-wide gaps with maximum weight of 350 pounds, typically the weight of a Special Ops member with all his gear. Additionally, the device should be convenient to transport, and should be versatile for use to scale buildings.
In a combined team effort, the TSU students and six others from Prairie View A&M University, joined forces to represent the Minority Leadership Program sponsored by Houston-based Clarkson Aerospace Corporation.
The TSU-PVAM group designed and entered two solutions in the competition. The first was able to complete the competition at the 16-foot range, and the second could be used to cross over an 18-foot-wide gap.
A Shalimar, Fla., local newspaper quoted TSU Electrical and Computer Engineering major Alvin Hughes as saying that while meeting the required parameter was quite a feat, the practical applications were another matter.
“The first semester was basically concepts,” said Hughes as he and other students quickly discovered that as opposed to the classroom, calculations on a computer do not always work in the real world.
Overall, the two solutions presented by the TSU/PVAM team received positive nods from the judges.
Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of the College of Engineering, gave the TSU students high commendation for their participation in the Design Challenge, pointing to the “strong partnership” between the AFRL and his college.
“The College of Engineering has maintained a strong partnership with the Air Force Research Lab for more than two decades,” he said. “This relationship extends beyond research in sensor networking and surveillance, but also applied projects for student learning.”
He called design competitions “an excellent method” for students to put engineering concepts to practice, while enjoying the camaraderie they obtain by working with other students and other institutions.
Other TSU students whop took part in the Design Competition were: Jasmine Knox and Kamisha White, Mechanical Engineering; Grantland Gray, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and January Wisniewski and James Calhoun, Computer Science.
Some of the other 16 institutions that participated in the Design Challenge were Ohio State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.