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Senior design projects benefit students, UConn, industry
By Richard Veilleux - June 20, 1997

Senior year has been very exciting - and potentially very lucrative - for two UConn engineering students.

The students, Benjamin S. Belinkie and Jennipher Spears, working with an engineer at U.S. Surgical Corp. in Norwalk, and Eric H. Jordan, a UConn professor of mechanical engineering, developed a medical device for the company. Neither the company nor the students can discuss the specifics of the project until it is patented and commercialized, but during the 17-year life of the patent, U.S. Surgical will earn a profit, as will the students, Jordan and the University.

Kazem Kazerounian, a professor of mechanical engineering and coordinator of the two year-old senior design program, said it's another example of how an excellent public-private partnership can be a terrific learning experience. Five companies have or are applying for patents on projects designed by the students.

"It's a win-win situation," Kazerounian said. "The students and professors work on projects that are cutting-edge. The companies gain access to the expertise of the students and the faculty, and to University equipment that some firms, especially smaller firms, cannot afford. It also gives students exposure to companies they may be interested in working for - and vice versa."

The senior design program, a requirement for seniors majoring in mechanical engineering, lasts an entire academic year. It brings projects proposed by corporations to teams that include at least two mechanical engineering students, one faculty advisor and an "industrial mentor," usually an engineer from the company which requested the project. Companies interested in participating are asked to provide $3,000 to $5,000 to cover necessary expenses incurred to offer the students a realistic design experience.

"This program provides us with a chance to do and to learn what Connecticut's industries want and what they have said they want the University to do and teach," Kazerounian said.

The program already has an international reputation. One of this year's projects is commissioned by the Singapore Productivity Board, a public-private partnership that is sponsoring the research on behalf of Tolly-Joy, a Singapore-based baby products industry. UConn is providing advice on creating an automated system for assembling pacifiers.

Breakthroughs have occurred on numerous projects UConn students have worked on: Goss & Deleeuw Machine Co. of Kensington has patented a threading device that will manufacture plumbing fixtures less expensively; Hamilton-Standard of Windsor Locks commissioned a project that has resulted in the creation of new and more resilient heat pipes for space vehicles; and a project with the United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford is leading to a patent for a UConn-designed combustion control system for gas turbines.