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Student Research C A M P U S C U R R E N T

Vehicles with a Mind of their Own A new first-year elective, Autonomous Vehicles, allows students to design and build their own robots. Engineering professors David Harris and Nancy Lape along with computer science Professor Zach Dodds and two student assistants, have devel- oped a very hands-on course that involves soldering parts onto a printed circuit board, programming robots, learning a 3-D computer-aided design software program to build the robot chassis and 3-D printing the robot chassis. In addition to add- ing their own creativity to the robots (including programmed songs), students also learn about and employ communications methods used in phones and GPS units, using optical methods to guide their robots. They also build their own fuel cells which are used to power the beacons for the course’s main event— the Capture the Flag competition, which requires the robots to seize beacons (fuel-cell powered LED’s, whose colors change depending on who has claimed it).

Smile, SpongeBob! A new kind of underwater webcam—the descendent of a prototype designed in 2001 by a HMC Clinic team—will soon be scanning the oceans in search of bioluminescent deep-sea creatures. The Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA)

will launch the innovative camera, which uses infrared light to spy on seldom-seen deep-sea animals capable of generating and emitting light. HMC alumni Nicholas Depail ’02., David Levitt ’02, Jane

Mi ’01, Christine Paulson ’02 and John Staroba ’01, advised by Associate Professor of Engineering Lori Bassman, collaborated with ORCA president and senior scientist Edith Widder to de- velop and build the camera as their Clinic project, “Eye in the Sea: Unobtrusive Biological Observatory.”

Into Africa: Mudders Help Provide Water, Light for Kenyan Village A team of three Harvey Mudd College students and their faculty advisor engineered around unforeseen challenges last summer to complete a water purification system in rural Ngomano, Kenya. Rob Best ’10, Isabel Bush ’12 and Evann Gonzales ’12, trav-

eled to Kenya with HMC physics Professor Peter Saeta as mem- bers of Engineers for a Sustainable World/Mudders Organizing for Sustainability Solutions.

S t u d e n t N e w s

Minnie Lai ’14 and Emma Bodell ’14 assemble robots. As they were installing a new solar-powered electric pump

for the village well, the main pipe broke loose and fell to the bottom of the 50-meter shaft. The team then had to devise a way to recover the pipe using whatever materials they could find in the village. Displaying MacGyver-like resourcefulness, they improvised three tools that enabled them to hook and retrieve the pipe. The team also wired a system that diverted excess energy

from the new pump’s solar panels to provide electric lighting in the village school—a first that prompted the Kenyan teachers and students to dance for joy. “Trips like this really enhance learning and understanding of what HMC stands for,” Best said. “We think a lot about how we can impact our own world and often forget that there are other ‘worlds’ here on Earth where simple ef- forts can mean a lot.”

Isabel Bush ’12 and Ethan Saeta test the pump.

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