Research & Innovation

How Industry and Government Partners, Including L3Harris, Champion Senior Design at Stevens

Dozens of external collaborators annually lend expertise and funding to support Stevens seniors’ remarkable capstone projects

Most Stevens Institute of Technology seniors create a senior-year design project, usually (but not always) as part of a team, as the capstone on their undergraduate experiences. 

The 2023 Innovation Expo highlighted hundreds of these senior design projects, once again showcasing the best of the university’s student ingenuity. 

But these students don't work in a vacuum. More than 40 industry and agency supporters and partners helped fund, fuel and advise the latest iteration of undergraduate capstone projects — providing financial and technical assistance that’s vital to the completion of those projects. 

During the 2022-23 academic year, collaborating firms, agencies and institutions included L3Harris, the United Nations, Merck, the Cleveland Clinic, General Dynamics, the U.S. Coast Guard, PSE-Siemens and Royal Caribbean Group, among others.

“The support of L3Harris and the over 40 other companies that sponsored senior projects is immensely valuable and demonstrates the dual benefit of engaging with Stevens,” notes Greg Townsend, Stevens’ senior director of corporate, government and community relations. “Students gain real-world experiences with industry mentors, and our corporate sponsors see first-hand the capabilities of our students.”

“This pipeline of corporate-sponsored senior projects is expanding, which maximizes the impact of this program for our students and the regional economy.” 

L3Harris: Supporting projects in AI, robotics, even the arts

L3Harris is one of those key supporters whose sustained support contributes to strong year-long Stevens senior design experiences and culminating design projects, a process that often includes ideation, planning, technical research and testing, prototyping, market research and final project presentations.

A prominent technology company, defense contractor and information technology service provider, L3Harris has long been a close partner with Stevens — a relationship that has produced internships, cooperative education experiences, frequent recruitment and hiring of Stevens graduates, and sponsorship of team projects.

Company representatives appeared on campus in February as part of the School of Engineering and Science's Dean's Lecture Series, discussing the globe's increasingly technological electronic battlefields. The company also sponsors Stevens faculty research and provides robust philanthropic support to the Stevens Technical Enrichment Program (STEP), among other programs.

And Stevens continues to partner with L3Harris to provide continuing education opportunities for company employees. 

During academic year 2022-23, four senior design teams — selected through a rigorous internal process — benefitted from the company’s support. Working in four different disciplines, the teams demonstrated Stevens’, and industry’s, mission to deliver agile technology that responds to societal needs.

“L3Harris and Stevens have a strong legacy of partnership. Sponsoring university projects is fulfilling to our employees who mentor and beneficial to recruiting high-caliber talent,” notes Jennifer Lewis, President, Electronic Warfare for L3Harris.

“My team and I had a great time at the Innovation Expo. I was impressed and inspired by the students’ enthusiasm, knowledge and presentation skills. This was a terrific opportunity to celebrate the students’ accomplishments and identify future candidates for the company.”

An eye-opening project to swap drone batteries in midair was one of the four senior design projects. 

Illustration of 2 drones, one that swaps a new battery into the otherThe D.I.B.S. system, a 2023 senior design project, works by dropping an exhausted battery from one drone into a 'catcher' on an auxiliary drone (pictured). It was supported by L3Harris and others.The concept was developed by seniors Michael Botros ’23, Elizabeth Cannizzo ‘23, Eugene Kozlavov ‘23, Enzo Napolitano ‘23, Christopher Solan ‘23 and Julia Wierzbicki ’23. Advised by professor and Stevens Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) director Brendan Englot, the team proposed, designed and modeled a swap, drop and catch system with potential for both a variety of commercial applications and homeland security uses.

“In addition to their generous financial support, L3Harris gave of their time, assigning an excellent mentor to work with the team this spring,” says Englot. “Along with holding regular meetings with their assigned L3Harris mentor, the students met twice this semester with members of the L3Harris leadership team.”

“Their level of investment and interest in the team's success was remarkable.”

"We could not have done this project without L3Harris,” adds Botros, speaking for the senior team. “The guidance from our L3Harris team mentor, Barnet Schmidt, was key to steering the team toward valuable resources for completing the project.”

The three additional design projects sponsored over the 2022-23 academic year by L3Harris include a resource-saving software package, a suit for spinal rehab and a robot drummer.

Swarm robotics involves the use of small to large groups of robots for potential applications in medicine, operations and homeland security. Professor Yi Guo, a leading expert in the use of robotic groups for societally useful applications, advised the team of Luisa Bonfim ‘23, Benjamin Mirisola ‘23, Cameron Murphy’23 and Kevin Ward ‘23 as they developed and presented MOSS, an open-source software and hardware package for studying such groups. The package would enable researchers, students and hobbyists to conduct swam-robotics research at far lower cost than is now possible. 

"Our system combines a single-download ROS2 software package with an affordable hardware kit that provides universities and students with a significant cost-reduction in setup time and money,” explains Ward.

Professor Damiano Zanotto, an expert in ‘smart’ technologies to aid physical rehabilitation, led another four-member team of seniors who designed a soft exosuit for ambulatory patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) to help patients stand from sitting positions. The proposed suit — which resembles a pair of compression pants with a motor and cables — was developed by Matthew Leong ‘23, Sean Macias ‘23, Alex Mattes ‘23 and Taylor Reilly ‘23, using motors to aid in knee extension.

“We worked hard to develop supporting analysis for the use of the suit, including a comprehensive biomechanical analysis of the sit-to-stand movement as well as a motion-capture analysis,” explains Mattes. "The additional professional knowledge and financial support from L3Harris allowed us to make advancements and acquire new information for the betterment of the project.” 

EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) in IEEE co-sponsored the project.

“The suit that the students are designing could have a significant positive impact on those with SMA, which is one of the most common genetic disorders,” notes Stephanie Gillespie Ph.D. ‘23, EPICS in IEEE’s Committee Chair.

Advised by professor Mishah U. Salman and designed by seniors Murray Elinson ‘23, Marcel Grygo ‘23, Anthony Paolantonio ‘23, Kalani Pigao ‘23, Kristina Sunada ‘23, Joseph Tsui ‘23 and Steven Zheng ‘23, this intriguing project (“Djembot”) skillfully blends music with science — and took home the John Barnes Senior Design Award in the process. (Established by the Class of 2009, the award annually recognizes a senior design team that uniquely blends the arts and engineering.) 

"L3Harris were looking to sponsor senior design projects that involved mechatronics, control systems, and signal processing, all aspects that the Djembot encompassed,” points out Zheng. “The Djembot project proved to be an excellent opportunity for our interdisciplinary team. L3Harris' support, both in terms of project funding and mentorship, has helped the team prepare for and overcome pitfalls over the course of the project’s development and integration testing."

“The complex integrated systems involved in creating a robot to play a musical instrument in a human-like fashion engage the highest levels of engineering and musicianship," adds Salman. "Successful fusion of these categories leads to great learning in STEM and the arts, as well as transferable technologies that can be leveraged by groups like L3Harris.” 

Partners in healthcare, transportation, engineering

Dozens of additional collaborators also provided financial support for the Class of 2023’s senior design teams, including some recognized on campus at a special School of Engineering and Science sponsors luncheon midway through Innovation Expo day in April. 

One of the projects leveraging industry know-how, developed jointly with Merck and PSE (a Siemens company), works to improve pharmaceutical pill and powder manufacturing process design and workflow development. 

The two companies provided technical expertise to team compACTION, consisting of seniors Trevor Anderson ‘23, Matt Brantl ‘23, Lynda Farinella ‘23 and Rachel Krieger ‘23, advised by professor Yujun Zhao. 

“Working with Merck and PSE Siemens has been a great experience,” says team member Brantl. “We enjoyed our site visit in particular, as we got to see a walkthrough of the process we were working with and other areas of the business not directly connected to our project. It opened all of our eyes to a new industry and setting.” 

“The Stevens senior design project has been a great opportunity for us to collaborate to apply innovative technologies to solve practical problems,” adds Dana Barrasso ‘10 M. Eng. ‘10, principal consultant for Siemens. “In our trilateral partnership, with Siemens as the technology provider and Merck as the key stakeholder and data supplier, Stevens students have acted as ‘mock’ end-users of the technology.” 

Another project, a cargo-scanning algorithmic system that refines the shipping container inspection process — the winning project in the 2023 Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition — benefitted from the close and continuous input and assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). 

The AI was created by Reva Grover ’23, Dehan Kong ’23, Laura Mathews ’23, Daniel Wadler ’23 and Samantha Weckesser ’23, advised by professor Alparslan Emrah Bayrak and assisted by USCG Sector New York safety and security division chief John Hillin. 

Winning team at Stevens pitch competition accepting oversized $10,000 check from President Nariman FarvardinMaritime Security was the first-prize winner in the 2023 Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition"This project would not have been possible without the support of U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York and Stevens’ Maritime Security Center (MSC),” says Weckesser. “They provided invaluable feedback and guidance every step of the way. They gave us the opportunity to speak with multiple members of the cargo inspection team at Sector NY and arranged for us to give updates on our project to Coast Guard headquarters.” 

“For many years the USCG Sector NY has benefitted from our relationship with Stevens Institute of Technology through the Maritime Security Center,” adds John Hillin, Safety and Security Division Chief for Sector New York. “We get to apply their project outcomes toward helping solve real life Coast Guard issues.” 

“How this group holistically assessed the problem to strategically develop a final product was awe-inspiring. Their project outcomes became the catalyst in my effort to promote enhanced cargo handling safety initiatives for our Container Inspection Program that will protect lives, the environment and our economy.” 

MODEV, a novel device that straps onto a patient’s knee and allows doctors to affordably and precisely measure range of motion, benefitted from input from doctors at the renowned Cleveland Clinic and insights from practitioners at the New Jersey firm Twin Boro Physical Therapy. 

The project was developed by seniors Carl Colditz ‘23, Jake Millburn ‘23, Tianyuanye Wang ‘23 and Steven Zanderbaum ‘23, advised by adjunct professor Tony Valdevit. 

"Our project was suggested to the department by [Cleveland Clinic] Dr. Jack Andrish, who saw a need for more affordable measurement methods in his practice as an orthopedic surgeon,” explains Millburn. “We worked closely with Dr. Andrish to determine our initial design targets, and we worked with Twin Boro physical therapists Sandra Pietrowicz and Caroline Jolly to further understand how we could best save the healthcare practitioner time and save the patient money." 

Another senior duo designed a polar-region ocean liner, working with experts at Royal Caribbean Group (RCG) on the design. The team consisted of Kyra Kozar ‘23 and Leo Bristow ‘23, advised by professors Michael DeLorme and An Wang. 

“Last summer, I was an intern in the Newbuilding and Innovation Department for Royal Caribbean Group in Miami,” explains Kozar. “During my internship, I spoke with my managers about a potential senior design project with the company due to my interest in the cruise shipping industry.” 

RCG project manager (and Stevens graduate) Ryan Seifert ‘15 and technical manager Joseph Goulas created a Ship Design Request with specific technical and sustainability parameters for the potential project. 

Female team member holding small cruise ship model at Stevens' 2023 Innovation ExpoRoyal Caribbean Group collaborated with a Stevens team as it designed a polar region-capable cruise linerDuring a series of conference calls Kozar and Bristow conducted with Royal Caribbean, the parties agreed they would design a sustainable and fuel-efficient cruise ship class — with the capability to travel to Earth’s polar regions — as the senior-year effort. Kozar also met with the chief staff engineer of an RCG cruise ship, who provided helpful technical insights. 

“Leo and I are extremely grateful to Royal Caribbean for their sponsorship and their technical guidance throughout the course of this project,” Kozar says. “I enjoyed the creative freedom given to us.”  

For more on collaborating with Stevens, visit our Corporation Relations home.