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Intel hosts Aggie Innovation Design Challenge at NMSU

Twenty-one engineering students from New Mexico State University participated in a recent Aggie Innovation Design Challenge sponsored by Intel Corp.

Three students stand by their window blind invention.
Mechanical engineering students Jesse Wilkinson, Gregory Taylor and Colt Cappuro won the Intel-sponsored Aggie Innovation Contest with their automated window blind that use solar panels to track the position of the sun to close and open the blinds accordingly. (NMSU photo by Rudaina Sarwar)

The innovation challenge concept was designed by the Engineering New Mexico Resource Network in the College of Engineering in collaboration with corporate partners to jump-start student engagement in innovative applications of engineering concepts. The challenges allow students to get involved in innovation and entrepreneurship in a fun yet real-world setting.

“We wanted to develop a co-curricular activity that would allow engineering students to enhance their ability to address real-world challenges in a multi-disciplinary environment,” said Patricia A. Sullivan, associate dean for Outreach and Public Service and director of the Engineering New Mexico Resource Network. “The ability to partner with industry and government agencies to identify actual engineering challenges has been key to the program’s success.”

The recent Intel-sponsored event challenged students to develop a product that was fun, novel and marketable using Intel’s Galileo boards. Students were given basic kits and had three weeks to develop their products, beginning with a training session on Galileo boards, followed by weekly question and answer sessions with Intel engineers and NMSU engineering faculty. Competitors utilized resources available in the Aggie Innovation Space to develop their designs.

“This competition was designed to be fun and innovative by giving engineering students an opportunity to challenge their creative side,” said Jaymie Velasquez, a student employee in the Innovation Space. “This is what the Aggie Innovation Space is all about.”

Velasquez, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, interned with Intel last summer. One of her responsibilities included working with Intel and the Engineering New Mexico Resource Network to develop the competition and assemble the kits used by the students. Velasquez was instrumental in bringing the student perspective to the competition.

Mechanical engineering students Gregory Taylor, Jesse Wilkinson and Colt Cappuro won the competition with their design Not-So Blinded, a project that allows automated window blinds to track sunlight and allow ambient light into a room. Using the Galileo board as the core processor, solar panels were used to track the position of the sun to close and open the blinds accordingly. Wilkinson explained that in the future, they would like to allow for manual adjustment, a battery back-up system and integration with other household appliances.

“As an engineering student, I was impressed with the level of the competition,” Wilkinson said. “The Aggie Innovation Design Challenges have created an exciting way for students to create something for industry and the everyday consumer.”

Intel presented each of the winners with an ASUS MeMo Pad 8. The student team is now exploring opportunities to refine and commercialize their product with assistance from NMSU Arrowhead Center’s Studio G and Sandia National Laboratories.

Other student design projects included iView, an interactive, 3-D map of campus; El Synco, an automated USB backup device; and the Zen-Bot, a robot operated at night to do gardening.

“You are the future of our state and our country,” said Brian Rashap, Intel NM Corporate Services Site Manager.

The judges of the competition included Rashap; Kathy Hoopman, Intel NM Facility Electrical Area Manager; John Gabaldon, Intel NM Industrial Waste System Engineer; Gabe Garcia, associate department head of NMSU’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department; and Paul Furth, associate professor in NMSU’s Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Galileo boards can be used to develop simple items such as interactive LED light displays to more complex projects from automating home appliances to building life-size robots. Based on the Intel Quark® processor, Galileo is a collaboration with Arduino LLC, the leading open-source hardware platform in the maker and education community.

This past year, the NMSU College of Engineering and Intel officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the official grand opening of the Aggie Innovation Space that led to the creation of a facility to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. The new facility is open to students and includes access to state-of-the-art resources such as 3D printing and technical engineering software.

The facility was made possible through a donation of $70,000 from Intel and $50,000 through the NMSU President’s Performance Fund. These funds were leveraged with additional contributions from other corporate partners and engineering alumni.