UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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Industry-Sponsored Student Design Project
Companies See Fresh Faces and Fresh Ideas


Jacobs School students designed a rollercoaster inspection system. The vehicle is controlled wirelessly via a laptop and transmits images of the track back to the operator.
For Corporate Affiliates Program (CAP) members, sponsoring student design projects is a great way to explore new technology while supporting education.

Take ATA Engineering, which asked a Jacobs School student team to design a wireless rollercoaster inspection system to evaluate welds in difficult-to-reach places, such as corkscrews and loops, and reduce the need for inspectors to physically traverse the track. The students built the inspection mechanism, created the graphical user interface, and designed the necessary control system.

ATA provides mechanical and structural engineering consulting services to the amusement park industry, and the prototype was made for Arrow Dynamics Inc.’s Viper roller coaster in Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA. The coaster features the world’s tallest vertical loop.

“The UCSD project has provided a cost-effective way to develop a prototype inspection system that one day may develop further into a fully functional product, said Joshua Davis, an engineer with ATA Engineering. “We believe that we have a duty to the engineering community to provide students with real-life practical challenges.”

Companies can sponsor design projects through both mechanical engineering and electrical engineering capstone courses. Participating companies pay for the cost of materials and provide direction to the student team. In return, the students present a final prototype and design report at the end of the quarter.

“The students benefit from exposure to industry and the chance to apply the theory they’ve learned to real-world problems,” says mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Nate Delson. “The companies get a world-class group of students working on a problem for a fraction of the cost of outsourcing the research. It’s a partnership that truly benefits both sides. Some projects have led to additional grants for companies and some have even resulted in patent filings.”

To learn more about sponsoring student design projects, contact Jeff Nagle, jnagle@ucsd.edu, (858) 822-1803.