Campus & Community

SSE Students Embrace a Virtual Platform at Stevens Innovation Expo 2020

The graduating Class of 2020 showed its ability to pivot from the vibrancy of working together on campus to bringing projects to fruition while working remotely.

School of Systems and Enterprises (SSE) students presented Senior Design projects at Stevens Innovation Expo 2020. From a smart home system for Alzheimer’s patients and caretakers, to a more efficient airplane tug system, to a transparent online hub for collaborating on college design projects and a dashboard system for workspace redesign, student research teams demonstrated innovative solutions to broad-ranging societal and industrial challenges. 

“In this unprecedented time, the academic accomplishments of our graduating Class of 2020 were impressively demonstrated at this year’s Innovation Expo,” said Yehia Massoud, dean of the School of Systems and Enterprises. “The senior projects illustrate not only our students’ science and engineering prowess, but also their truly innovative and creative discoveries. This bodes well for their future contributions as professionals and also gives hope and optimism for industry and society as a whole.” 

Traditionally, the event is a day-long celebration on campus that marks the capstone Senior Design project for graduating seniors and culminates in the Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition, a business pitch challenge judged by a distinguished panel of professionals. Faculty and students, along with guests, come together to engage in discussions and demonstrations related to the future of design and technology.  

Despite a pandemic that rendered the campus empty, students took to an online platform to showcase the teamwork, problem-solving and ingenuity of their research projects. 

Teams Quickly Shifted to Incorporate Present-Day Realities in Their Presentations

The O-Space team (student team members: Jessica Driscoll, Connor Frey, Alexandra Kalogirou, Gregory Milani, Jordan Urbaczek) addressed the $2 trillion problem of corporate turnover, while heeding the personal experiences of friends who dreaded working in office environments that didn’t have the perks and amenities associated with places like Google. The students created an algorithm to help companies drill down to questions such as, “How many snack bars equal a happy employee?”

Testing of the tool was interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, so the team considered opportunities in the pandemic and post-pandemic era. “Given the current situation, with companies potentially reducing their investment in workspace, as a team we realized that our next step would be to increase the weight on technology investments for the home,” said Jessica Driscoll, ’20 engineering management program.

Team EMMA (student team members: Emily Renjilian, Michael Ryan, Connor Santiago, Angelica Torres), which developed a system to detect and offer emergency assistance to elderly people who live independently, found that the project took on new meaning during the coronavirus outbreak. “With the spread of COVID-19 around the United States, a system like EMMA really comes into play, because it allows the elderly to get help, but it doesn’t put them at risk for any unneeded human exposure in a situation like a pandemic,” said Emily Renjilian, ’20 industrial and systems engineering (ISE) program, whose project was a collaboration with ISE and software engineering (SwE) students.

Prof. Eirik Hole, senior lecturer, School of Systems and Enterprises, commended the Class of 2020 for its resilience in adapting to a virtual format in mid-March. “Once we all comprehended the situation, the students impressively bounced right back to work on finalizing and presenting their Senior Design projects,” Hole said. “I’m proud of our graduates and am confident that they will continue to do amazing things in the workforce or in pursuing entrepreneurial adventures.”

A Talk About STEM Focused on the Future Generation of Scientists 

The event also included breakout discussions for high school students that featured a talk by SSE software engineering program lead Prof. Gregg Vesonder. In the talk, Prof. Vesonder described a developing STEM program for high schools that would teach students to build and code intelligent sensor boards recording environmental measurements. 

Year after year, Stevens’ Innovation Expo has provided the perfect forum for finding solutions that are best addressed through advancements in science and technology. This year was unlike any others in that teams had one additional variant to consider in the application of their final projects — a worldwide pandemic.