Trine receives $50,000 DENSO grant

Trine University has received a $50,000 grant from the DENSO North America Foundation (DNAF) to be used toward laboratory improvements and student capstone design projects.

James Canino, Ph.D., associate professor in the Wade Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said the new funding will help improve the touchscreen laboratory the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department built during the 2016-2017 academic year using DENSO North America Foundation funds. This new round of funding will be used to add more sensors and better troubleshooting capabilities to the student-built human interfaces.

Funds also will be used to build 15 laboratory setups students can use to test various control strategies and acquire data in his department’s Control Systems Laboratory. Canino said the department currently only has one laboratory setup for the students in the Control Systems class, and increasing the number of setups will significantly improve student engagement and learning.

“The grant from the DENSO Foundation will allow our students the freedom to explore more real-world options when completing their capstone projects,” he said. “Also, the laboratory developments will help more of our students have hands-on experiences with real hardware, which will serve them well when they graduate.”

Trine University students already have seen benefits from a $25,000 grant provided by DENSO in 2016. Three projects displayed at Trine University’s 15th annual Engineering Design Expo in April benefitted from that grant.

The Basic Utility Vehicle (BUV) team used $2,600 from the grant to purchase the frame, sheet metal and other structural components for their vehicle. The Trine BUV placed fifth in an annual competition to design a simple, low-cost utility vehicle that can benefit low-income people in rural areas of developing countries.

During the competition, participants have to pump water into 55-gallon tanks on their vehicles and then do laps around the off-road competition field, which is about two miles long.

“Our vehicle was able to run all day. We never had any problems,” said senior mechanical engineering major Ian Jindrich of Aurora, Illinois. “We were able to fill our barrels. We were able to turn laps with our vehicle filled, which we were a little bit concerned about because obviously it’s a very heavy vehicle and driving in the mud requires a lot of power. We think overall our competition was extremely successful.”

Jindrich said the project, which the group worked on over a nine-month period, taught members the design process as well as time and budget management.

“I thank Trine and I thank DENSO for the opportunities we were given here,” he said. “This is an extremely exciting project. I think all of us are a little sad that it’s over but it was definitely a great payoff.”

The Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) team, which takes part in an annual competition to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car, used $4,500 in grant money to produce a mold and purchase the components for their vehicle.

“It was awesome to do a carbon-fiber layup. That was amazing,” said Logan Konopka, a senior mechanical engineering major from Grass Lake, Michigan. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do that.”

Konopka said the group passed tech inspection on the first try and made valid runs, both an improvement from last year’s effort.

“It was a lot of fun and I wish I was around to build next year’s car just because of what I know now,” he said.

A third senior design team used DENSO funds to build a laboratory-scale chassis dynamometer to be used by SEM teams to measure the speed and torque of the SEM car, in order to optimize their track performance. Chris Hull, a senior mechanical engineering major from Columbus, Indiana, said the DENSO grant funded 90 percent of the project.

“This project taught a lot of control strategies and data acquisition,” said senior mechanical engineering major Devin Anderson, who also worked on the project. “We benefitted from learning to do that on such a large scale, trying to take all these inputs and put them to some sort of real-world use.”

DNAF is the philanthropic arm of global auto parts supplier DENSO’s North American headquarters, DENSO International America Inc. Since 2001, the DNAF has been dedicated to advancing the auto industry through grants to colleges and universities. The foundation provides students with technology, tools and experiences similar to that of the professional workplace they’ll experience after graduation.

In addition to the foundation’s efforts, DENSO also supports students one-on-one through mentorship, connecting students with DENSO experts to give them a better idea of what being an engineer or technical professional means. DENSO supports programs around the country and world such as FIRST Robotics, Project Lead the Way and Society of Automotive Engineering Collegiate Design Series. DENSO also has an extensive co-op student program where students are given a high level of responsibility and gain real-world experience.

Photo: Members of the Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) team show the vehicle they designed with help from a DENSO grant at Trine University's Engineering Design Expo in April. (Photo by Dean Orewiler)