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Engineering Students Win 1st and 2nd Place in “Make-a-Thon” Contest

This year, two teams of students in the School of Engineering and Computer Science took their senior design projects to a whole new level.
photo by Craig Sanders courtesy of The Record

Mechanical Engineering students Michael Conway '14, Patrick Green '14 and Tyler Sandelin '14 raised more than $20,000 to fund their senior design project and won first place in the Make-a-Thon on crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com

Apr 4, 2013
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The senior design projects of two student teams soared to a whole new level this year in the School of Engineering and Computer Science's annual competition.

While seeking out ways to help fund their ambitious projects, they found out about the $10,000 "Make-a-Thon" contest from crowdfunding website GoFundMe. Both teams entered their designs to raise funds and compete for a cash prize — and won.

In addition to money participants were able raise for their projects during the competition, GoFundMe awarded prizes of $5,000, $3,500 and $1,500 for the best projects submitted on their site. Voting was done through Facebook and the winners were selected by the GoFundMe community on March 21.

First place winners Michael Conway '14, Patrick Green '14 and Tyler Sandelin '14 are Mechanical Engineering students in the school's blended bachelor's/master's degree program. Building on their aspirations to work in the aerospace industry, they conceived a project to develop a single passenger ultralight plane that would be simple to design and build as an educational project. They estimated the cost of production to be about $10,000. They raised more than $12,000 in donations above the $5,000 in prize money. 

"Designing and building our own ultralight airplane has provided us with unique experiences and lessons learned that we will be able to draw on for many years to come," says Patrick Green."The work ethic, motivation, and drive required to finish what we started was as rewarding and challenging." The team says the additional funds they raised will provide for flight training and give them a jumpstart toward developing their idea for production.

Taking second place were Mike Baron '13, Raphael Escalona '14, Vinh Hoang '13 and Zach Wiberg '13, all mechanical engineering students with career sights in the automotive industry. Their project was to develop a lighter weight sand car with improved performance, faster acceleration and increased ground clearance. They estimated their project would cost around $7,000. They raised $6,550 in donations along with a $3,500 cash prize. 

All seniors in the School of Engineering and Computer Science are required to complete a design project as part of degree requirements. The projects are presented and demonstrated on Senior Project Day each year before Commencement and judged by a panel made up of alumni and industry experts. 

"The fabrication costs for some of the mechanical engineering senior projects can be pretty high, so I'm impressed with how innovative and passionate these two groups have been in pursuing alternative opportunities for fundraising," says their advisor Kyle Watson, associate professor of mechanical engineering. "The money they have raised has allowed them to successfully complete these tremendously challenging projects."

Engineering Senior Project Day

See students demonstrate their senior project designs on Engineering Senior Project Day, April 27, 2013, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in front of Khoury Hall.