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Engineering Capstone Design of a Radio Telescope

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Technical Session: Capstone and Design

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Stephen Andrew Wilkerson P.E. York College of Pennsylvania

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Stephen Wilkerson ( received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1990 in Mechanical Engineering. His Thesis and initial work was on underwater explosion bubble dynamics and ship and submarine whipping. After graduation he took a position with the US Army where he has been ever since. For the first decade with the Army he worked on notable programs to include the M829A1 and A2 that were first of a kind composite saboted munition. His travels have taken him to Los Alamos where he worked on modeling the transient dynamic attributes of Kinetic Energy munitions during initial launch. Afterwards he was selected for the exchange scientist program and spent a summer working for DASA Aerospace in Wedel, Germany 1993. His initial research also made a major contribution to the M1A1 barrel reshape initiative that began in 1995. Shortly afterwards he was selected for a 1 year appointment to the United States Military Academy West Point where he taught Mathematics. Following these accomplishments he worked on the SADARM fire and forget projectile that was finally used in the second gulf war.
Since that time, circa 2002, his studies have focused on unmanned systems both air and ground. His team deployed a bomb finding robot named the LynchBot to Iraq late in 2004 and then again in 2006 deployed about a dozen more improved LynchBots to Iraq. His team also assisted in the deployment of 84 TACMAV systems in 2005. Around that time he volunteered as a science advisor and worked at the Rapid Equipping Force during the summer of 2005 where he was exposed to a number of unmanned systems technologies. His initial group composed of about 6 S&T grew to nearly 30 between 2003 and 2010 as he transitioned from a Branch head to an acting Division Chief. In 2010-2012 he again was selected to teach Mathematics at the United States Military Academy West Point. Upon returning to ARL's Vehicle Technology Directorate from West Point he has continued his research on unmanned systems under ARL's Campaign for Maneuver as the Associate Director of Special Programs. Throughout his career he has continued to teach at a variety of colleges and universities. For the last 4 years he has been a part time instructor and collaborator with researchers at the University of Maryland Baltimore County ( He is currently an Assistant Professor at York College PA.

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Stephen Andrew Gadsden University of Guelph

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Andrew completed his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and Management (Business) at McMaster University in 2006. In 2011, he completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at McMaster in the area of estimation theory with applications to mechatronics and aerospace systems. Andrew worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Mechatronics and Hybrid Technology (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). He also worked as a Project Manager in the pharmaceutical industry (Apotex Inc.) for about three years. Before joining the University of Guelph in 2016, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Andrew worked with a number of colleagues in NASA, the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). He is an elected Fellow of ASME, is a Senior Member of IEEE, and is a Professional Engineer of Ontario. Andrew is an Associate Editor for the International Journal of Robotics and Automation and is a reviewer for a number of ASME and IEEE journals and international conferences. Andrew earned the 2019/2020 University Research Excellence Award for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences based on his research activities at the University of Guelph. He is also a 2019 SPIE Rising Researcher award winner based on his work in intelligent estimation theory, and a 2018 Ontario Early Researcher award (ERA) winner based on his work in intelligent condition monitoring strategies. He was also awarded the 2019 University of Guelph Faculty Association (UGFA) Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

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Kala Meah York College of Pennsylvania

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Kala Meah received the B.Sc. degree from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 1998, the M.Sc. degree from South Dakota State University in 2003, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Wyoming in 2007, all in Electrical Engineering. From 1998 to 2000, he worked for several power companies in Bangladesh. Currently, Dr. Meah is an Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program, Department of Engineering and Computer Science, York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA, USA. His research interest includes electrical power, HVDC transmission, renewable energy applications, energy conversion, and engineering education.

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Donald Jerome Hake II York College of Pennsylvania

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This paper presents an Engineering capstone design project that is community or service based. By and large most students in the school’s capstone program build a car for competition in the Baja or Formula collegiate programs. For 2019-20 program the project was to build a mechanical, star-tracking mechanism, for a 4.5-meter Series 8345 Prime Focus radio telescope. The instrument will be modified to scan the sky using the hydrogen line. The telescope is to be placed at the John C. Rudy Park, in York County Pennsylvania and operated by the York Astronomical Society (YAS). The mount was to include both azimuth and elevation tracking with remote control from a website. The park service was to handle the details surrounding the foundation, fencing, control room, and power; however, the college ended up providing these features as well. This paper details the design and initial and final construction of the telescope’s mechanical components by the students. This Project Based Learning PBL course allows the students to manage the design process with minimal academic structure. However, some faculty assistance was required for this program and we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of these interactions. Additionally, the course’s design helps promote Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) and Life-Long Learning (L3) of the students. The academic advisors overseeing the work served more in a mentoring role than as project managers. Not surprisingly, this project had numerous financial and engineering constraints to include the difficulties surrounding a 1-ton telescope and rotating mechanisms being operated in a public park atop an 9-foot pole. These constraints necessitated both student and faculty grant applications. The paper additionally details the design and solution to some of the more difficult manufacturing limitations of the college’s facilities. Finally, the paper discusses the educational value of this project’s approach along with the social and environmental issues that needed to be overcome.

Wilkerson, S. A., & Gadsden, S. A., & Meah, K., & Hake, D. J. (2020, June), Engineering Capstone Design of a Radio Telescope Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34549

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