Francisco Eduardo Lopez BS’20, is an Electrical Engineering graduate who recently completed his UTDesign Capstone project and graduated in May 2020. Lopez shares his winning team’s experience with the program and project in hopes to motivate future students achieve their goals as engineers.

 

“Our team began the Capstone project in Fall 2019. As an Electrical Engineer, I remember finding out which project or team I would be on was extremely exciting. I knew very few classmates closely, and the ones I did know were already planning their teams. After going through the process I was randomly assigned 5 other team members and given our choice of what we wanted to do for our project.

 

We had weekly meetings and early calls to discuss various ideas we had for our project and from the get go we knew we wanted to assist people, not just do something simple that has been attempted before. After a few meetings, and multiple ideas thrown out, we decided to focus on traffic assisting devices. Our original design was to create an autonomous robot that would help children, and elderly at crosswalks and intersections. We spent some more time doing research and finding out what challenges we would face. After speaking to many faculty members, it became clear to us that our project was too ambitious for two semesters. Luckily, as team lead, I decided to take advantage of the situation our team was in and motivated the team to “redesign” our project to still solve the same issue, but in a more efficient, and far more simple manner. With that, our project was born. The Intelligent Radar Implemented System (I.R.I.S.) which was a device meant to aid the visually impaired, elderly, and children, navigate through crosswalks and other traffic areas.

 

We spent the fall of 2019 doing research, finding hardware and software solutions, and designing a device that was not only simple, but efficient and could be cheaply implemented at various crosswalks. The UTD campus was a great environment for us to work with since it had many crosswalks, and people who could benefit off of the technology. We went through the motions of ensuring our Preliminary Design Review and Critical Design Review were on point and without flaws. We even took it a step further and ensured that we ordered all of our parts early and had a schedule built for the spring for when we needed to implement our device. Our faculty leader for Senior Design I was a huge influence, Marco Tacca, in making sure we had covered every factor that needed to be dealt with in our design. Thanks to him, many of the flaws and problems in our design were dealt with early on.

 

Once the Senior Design I Expo day came, we prepared our material and I gave a presentation in front of many professionals regarding what our device would do and how it would benefit the community. We killed it. The judges loved our design and we were able to clearly demonstrate how this device, I.R.I.S. would be a game changer for traffic aid. We spent the whole day discussing with judges the different challenges we faced and the equipment we would use to pull off the project and in the end, we came 2nd place in the Expo. I am extremely proud to have been rewarded with such an accomplishment.

2020 EE Team - Second Place UTDesign Expo

The second semester for Senior Design II, our team was motivated and ready to put the device together that many judges were fond of. We worked hard, day and night, to ensure that we could get our device working as soon as possible. Our faculty leader for Senior Design II, Dr. John Hansen, was the best support we could’ve had during our second semester. He pushed us to meet deadlines and do our research to make sure that we had no flaws in our design. He even motivated our team to pursue an IRB early on to have human testing done with our device. In early February, we had a working device that was capable of achieving our goals. With everything on track our team was extremely motivated to push on and do some testing to get some data and hopefully rollout our design on the campus crosswalks. Unfortunately, the unexpected happened.

 

COVID-19 spread across the globe causing all Senior design facilities to close down. With our hardware in the lab, and regulations placed by the federal government to stay home, we were unable to pursue a final version of our device. Our team had suffered a huge blow, we were devastated that something we had worked so hard on would sit in a lab without being completed.

 

Regardless of the pandemic, our team pushed onward. As the team lead, I made sure that we put all of our efforts into the deliverables we needed for the project to be completed. We finished the report, poster, and expo slide on time and revised it more than once to have the strongest presentation for expo day. We wanted to show the judges and other teams that regardless of the pandemic, our team was still working hard to make the I.R.I.S. a reality.

EE 2020 Team - Second Place

When the EXPO day arrived, we were prepared, and gave our virtual presentation which again had the same effect as the first semester. We had stunned our judges. We received 2nd place again! We were all extremely happy and proud with our accomplishments.

 

Looking back at Capstone as a whole, personally it has been one of my fondest moments of my undergraduate career, and one of my proudest moments as an electrical engineer yet. Thanks to this project, I also managed to land a job locally, at Fujitsu Network and Communications. A lot of the interview questions and hiring process, involved discussing my role in the I.R.I.S. development. Being team lead, and working with dedication and a wonderful team, set me aside for companies and even allowed me to find a job during the pandemic. The skills I learned throughout the UTDesign project are extremely valuable to me, and If I could go back and change anything, I wouldn’t.

 

To future Capstone students, this project is one of your chances to use any skills you’ve learned to stand out. Let your creativity, intelligence, and communication skills guide you and your team to success. You will encounter problems, but [it] is your job as a team and as engineers to solve them. Do not give up, and do not get frustrated. Enjoy this time because it will be a memory for the rest of your life.”

Francisco Lopez, UTDesign Expo