Two UTDesign® Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) teams presented their projects during the 2020 American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Gulf-Southwest (GSW) Section conference, hosted virtually by The University of New Mexico. The theme for the 2020 ASEE Conference was “Engineering Engineering Education (E3): Innovations in the Classroom and Beyond.”
The teams from The University of Texas at Dallas presented Engaging Students through Community Projects: Impact of Student-led Software Teams on Nonprofit Organizations and The Engineering Design process for the EPICS’ Motorized Art Table for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to represent the initiatives they have been involved with through the UTDesign® EPICS program. The students partnered with non-profits Trusted World and My Possibilities, respectively, to deliver insights and outcomes regarding collaborations that have spanned several semesters each.
Engaging Students through Community Projects: Impact of Student-led Software Teams on Nonprofit Organizations, presented by Arthur Pachachura and Vedansh Patel in partnership with Trusted World, highlighted a project focused on building an inventory system capable of tracking millions of items and thousands of orders across dozens of donation centers, while utilizing human-centric design principles to streamline Trusted World’s existing processes. The project’s solution required building a custom database, API, and user interface. The project’s five-semester impact included 1,800 logged hours by 17 students, 1,811 orders fulfilled, 175,478 items delivered with a combined value of $270,133, and 318,805 items tracked. While the impact captured by these metrics is already profound, these numbers continue to grow daily. Beyond metrics, the project enabled Trusted World to expand to multiple service centers and increased granularity of item tracking.
The Engineering Design process for the EPICS’ Motorized Art Table for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, presented by Jiyah Starks and co-authored by Yuxin Jiao, Danyal Syed, and Reginald McKenzie, in partnership with My Possibilities, involved developing a motorized easel that allowed My Possibilities’ students to self-sufficiently operate the table despite their disabilities. The requested final design is an art table that would be wheelchair accessible, contain simple controls, and include vertical and rotational motion. Over the past eight semesters, student teams produced a functioning prototype, while revisions added rotational capabilities, improved stability, linear motion, improvements to the legs, wheels, lighting, and electronics.
These projects and their outcomes were made possible by the EPICS program, the students who dedicated their time to make an impact in their community, the non-profits with whom the program partnered with, and the sponsors who generously funded the program. These innovations truly embodied this year’s topic. While instruction and collaboration occur in the classroom, the impact of EPICS projects is felt far beyond the educational environment.
UTDesign® EPICS is a service-learning program that allows students to work on real-world problems while addressing the needs within the local and global community. Through this program, non-profit organizations partner with a team of UT Dallas students to receive the technical expertise they need to solve a problem that greatly benefits the community. The program is led by Dr. Terrell Bennett and Andrea Turcatti.