From an origami-inspired folding solar panel intended for outer space, to a boat-pulled hang glider, a mind-controlled model car, and heartbeat-controlled light display, engineering students at the University of Central Florida will showcase 126 inventions and new technologies from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 22, during the Senior Design Showcase.

Many projects offer solutions to real-world problems, including cost-saving methods for corporate sponsors such as Boeing and Florida Hospital. Other projects will be entered into national engineering competitions, many have commercial applications and others are just plain fun.

It’s exactly what leaders in the College of Engineering & Computer Science want to see from their graduating seniors. The goal of the showcase is to give students a chance to display their final projects, demonstrate their technical knowledge and show they are fully prepared for engineering jobs. On a more practical level, the projects represent a significant portion of students’ grades and are the final step before graduation.

A group of seven aerospace engineering students have entered their origami-inspired project “FOLDSAT” into NASA’s Florida Space Grant Consortium competition scheduled for May. The project offers an innovative way to generate electricity in outer space by unfolding giant solar panels that can be easily transported.

“The bigger the solar panel, the more power can be generated,” said student Daniel Jimenez. “But bigger solar panels become difficult to transport on a rocket payload where there are strict size and weight constraints.”

The team engineered a solution with a flexible, foldable solar panel. Folded, it measures 2 by 4 by 4 inches, small enough to fit on standard 4 by 4 inch satellite. In outer space, it can be unfolded and provide more than a square foot of usable solar cells that can generate enough watts to power an observation camera or a satellite-propulsion system. Their prototype could be scaled-up to provide six times more power than the current standard.

“More power for a cube satellite means that more robust space research can be done,” Jimenez said.

Another aerospace engineering team has invented a different way for Floridians to experience the sport of hang gliding, a recreational activity typically enjoyed in states with more mountainous terrain.

They have engineered a hang glider that catches air when pulled by a boat, while also catching curious stares from onlookers.

“Our project is a proof-of-concept showing how a hang glider can go airborne from a boat,” said aerospace engineering student Ben Boswell. “We didn’t fly very high in our tests, but the idea could be further developed to bring about a way to enjoy hang gliding in Florida where the terrain is so flat.”

The students received some funding to help get the project started, but they paid for much of the cost out of their own pockets. They built the glider in the garage of one of the team members. They wanted to incorporate their future aspirations into their senior design project.

“The glider was our idea, and we made it because we could,” said team member Charles Stankie. “We are all going into flying careers, and two of us want to be test pilots so we wanted to make a manned aircraft to test.”

To see a clip of their first practice run, click here.

A team of four electrical engineering students will demonstrate their project “Mind Games,” intended to show how body-controlled electronic sensors can be used in entertainment settings. They will use muscle movements to control an arcade claw-grip game; heart beats to control a light display with increasing levels of light depending on heart rate; and a model car controlled with brain waves, a technology that is gaining more attention but still limited in use.

The free showcase is open to the public and also includes a talk by UCF electrical engineering alumnus Arun Ramaswamy, Ph.D., chief engineer of Nielsen at 11:30 a.m.  Projects will be displayed inside and outside of the Engineering I and II buildings and the Harris Engineering Center on the main campus.

See the UCF Senior Design Day Showcase program for descriptions and locations of all projects.