Engineering students present year-long projects at the DesignSpine Expo

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The University of Indianapolis R.B. Annis School of Engineering hosted the inaugural DesignSpine Expo. DesignSpine is a showcase of what engineering students have been working on all year, according to junior general engineering major Autumn Hotopp. Associate Dean and Director of Engineering Kenneth Reid said that students doing a DesignSpine project is unique to UIndy.

“Most other schools do a senior design project,” Reid said. “So they do something pretty unique and innovative, but they only do it in their senior year. Our students do it their sophomore, junior and senior year.”

According to Hotopp, DesignSpine is a class that engineering majors take, lasting three hours once a week, where teams work on their projects. Hotopp said that engineering alone takes up at least 60 hours a week for her. 

“We start these projects back at the beginning of school, so in August, then we go and we work on them straight through,” Hotopp said. “…We typically even work over all of our breaks, so we’ve put a lot of time and effort into it. I think the DesignSpine Expo is a great way for us to showcase all the hard work and dedication we’ve put into this.”

The students are placed into teams based on what their strengths are and each team creates something different, according to Reid. He said that the students create everything themselves, with some guidance from faculty to keep them down the right path. According to Reid, the students do not come up with their project ideas on their own, but instead the ideas come from businesses. 

“We got proposals from industry partners, people all around Indianapolis,” Reid said. “So they’ll come in and they’ll say ‘I have an idea for a project for next year.’ Then we work with them to make sure they know it’s going to take all year. So it shouldn’t be crucial to success in their business, it should be sort of a side project that would be cool.”

Hotopp said that her team created a project called “The Vault.” According to Hotopp, her and her team finished collecting data for their project in November and have since then been working on building it. 

“The Vault is an attachment for your phone that allows you to have external storage at your fingertips, and you can keep it plugged into your phone,” Hotopp said. “It has a microSD card in it that allows you to have more storage than what your phone allows. Without unplugging or removing the attachment, you’re still able to charge your phone through the cords, so that’s to help with some usability by not having to take it off all the time.”

Hotopp said that she has always been interested in STEM and has always naturally gravitated towards a career in the field. She said growing up she was often told she would be good at engineering because she has an engineer’s mindset. It has been a goal of hers to be an engineer since seventh grade. 

“I think for me, engineering is utilizing all the skills that we’ve learned, different methodologies, things like that, combined with your thinking and ideas, to make the world better,” Hotopp said. 

At the DesignSpine Expo, Hotopp won the award for Outstanding Junior Student in DesignSpine. She said that the award is a big accomplishment and she has worked very hard this year to get her team to where they are now She also credited her team for making it possible. Hotopp said she was the only woman at the event to receive an award, and she wishes there were more women in STEM.

Reid said that he believes the DesignSpine Expo will make a huge difference for the University of Indianapolis R.B. Annis School of Engineering, and hopes it makes a positive impact.

“I think it’ll have a huge impact,” Reid said. “Because if we can get more industry partners to come in, we can get more proposed project ideas. Then we can really get the word out about UIndy engineering. A lot of schools say they’re hands on, I think we’re really beyond hands on.”

Hotopp said she believes the DesignSpine Expo went very well. DesignSpine is a unique experience that you will not find at another college and it has made a huge impact on her wanting to continue at UIndy, she said

 “I’ll get to talk to friends who are in engineering at other schools and learn that they don’t get to be hands-on until senior year,” Hotopp said. “They don’t do a lot of engineering classes until their junior and senior year. So they just don’t know as much as we would know going into our junior and senior year, I think that has made a huge impact.”

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