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Self-initiative Undergraduate Research

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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

Multidisciplinary Curriculum and Course Development

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Chris A. O'Riordan-Adjah Wake Technical Community College

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Chris A. O’Riordan-Adjah is a professional engineer with over fifteen years of experience in the structural engineering field as a bridge engineer and is currently the Department Head of Engineering at Wake Technical Community College. He was the Director and Associate Professor with the Engineering Department at Principia College. Chris has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Principia College, Illinois, Master’s degree in Quality Engineering and a Doctorate in Civil Engineering from the University of Central Florida respectively.

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This paper describes an undergraduate research project conducted at a liberal arts institution during the summer of 2019. The undertaking was distinctive in that it was an engineering research project conducted at a liberal-arts college by undergraduate students enrolled in the college’s engineering program. A multidisciplinary research team was assembled, composed of students majoring in civil, chemical and mechanical engineering. The purpose of the research was to identify areas where unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly known as drones) have been underused or totally unexploited, and to select one for further detailed analysis. Unlike typical research projects, where the areas of research and main topic are preselected by the research instructor/advisor, this project allowed the student researchers to make those decisions. The four-member research team identified several drone usage areas, including wildlife analysis, package delivery, athletic analysis, and areas in which artificial intelligence (AI) is used to enhance information gathering, such as security surveillance, storm tracking, anti-poaching of wildlife, and mosquito spraying. After a thorough review of these uses, mosquito spraying was selected as the focus topic. The decision was based on feasibility, time constraints (just seven weeks to complete the project), budget constraints, and capabilities of the Phantom 4 drone that was used. The research methodology involved the following components: (1) using the team “brainstorming” process to settle on one research topic; (2) pooling the students’ individual research efforts and findings to arrive at a comprehensive conclusion; (3) adapting a structured research approach to a very compressed, limited time frame; (4) coordinating a multidisciplinary team into a collaborative effort to meet specific deadlines; (5) using a high-tech mechanical device (the Phantom 4 drone) to perform an untraditional assignment (spraying mosquitoes); and (6) training the students in the proper use and navigation of drones, and to getting them FAA-qualified for pilot and ground observer status. Developing the mosquito spray container for the Phantom 4 required two weeks of intensive study, analysis and design, necessitating several trials before achieving a satisfactory final product. Despite this time-consuming process the spray mechanism worked efficiently, allowing the students to conduct and complete the practical aspect of the research project within the seven-week time-frame.

O'Riordan-Adjah, C. A. (2020, June), Self-initiative Undergraduate Research Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35185

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