BISMARCK, ND — University of Mary engineering students are innovators. They begin a rigorous learning process by creating hands-on projects from freshman year throughout their senior year. Often, they problem-solve to fix or make something better. More often. they even build things from scratch — because they can — to make peoples’ lives better.

That’s what University of Mary electrical engineering students Aaron Bales (Bismarck, ND), Richard Bendish (Mandan, ND) and Phillip Springsteen (Graham, WA) did for their senior project. The three spent a semester building a small four-wheel vehicle from scratch based on the request of their sponsor—GenesisGates Technology of Bismarck. They call it a Mobile App Controlled Articulated Vehicle (MACAV).

Springsteen developed a software application for the vehicle so that everything communicates properly. He programmed it so the operator is able to send smart commands by mobile phone to processors on the vehicle enabling the motor to run and be controlled — while allowing real-time feedback to the operator.

“I couldn’t have done this project without the rest of my team members,” said Springsteen, who is also an Academic All-Conference and All-American grappler for the University of Mary wrestling program. “This was a group project and we all contributed. Everyone’s part in this project was necessary.”

Springsteen adds that mechanically, this project is nowhere near complete. They hope to make adjustments and be able design it so that the MACAV is able to remotely complete tasks around the home — as if the operator was playing a video game on their phone.

Dr. Terry Pilling isn’t surprised at the outcome and what these UMary School of Engineering students can accomplish.

“Over the four years I have known them, all three will be graduating in the spring, I have seen their abilities exponentially skyrocket,” says Pilling, chair of the School of Engineering at the University of Mary. “They’ve all had internships every year. Phillip Springsteen worked for General Electric (GE) over the summer. He went around to hospitals around the state and fixed their high-tech electrical and electronics equipment — like their high-tech equipment. Same with the other two, Aaron worked for Bobcat. He did electrical engineering work for them. All of these guys are becoming very experienced. So by the time they get to their senior year, you can see what they can accomplish in a very short amount of time. And we are expecting those same outcomes every single year for our senior design projects, the same high quality work.”

John Santiago (Port Chester, NY) and Josef Sollman (Port Angeles, WA) explain their cell phone wireless charging project

Some of the many other projects included students John Santiago (Port Chester, NY) and Josef Sollman (Port Angeles, WA) testing and designing cell phone wireless chargers. Junior electronics students Snaedis Danielsdottir, (Reykholahreppur, Iceland), Josh Reiner, (Bismarck), Jeffrey Strong, (Crystal Lake, IL), and Gabe Zimmer (West Bend, WI), built a scrolling digital sign from scratch using RGB LEDs and wrote a program in C++ in order to control it.

Also, mechanical and civil engineers as well as construction management students demonstrated their projects.

Pilling says the School of Engineering invited companies to come in and present ideas for projects. Two projects of note that students will be challenged with in the coming semesters are very sophisticated and high tech. An aerospace company representative came to speak with junior UMary engineering students to see if they would be interested in working on a project related to ballistic missiles. And Mountain Plains, a Watford City, ND, surveying company, is having a group of UMary students work on a robotics project that would help solve a critical problem in the oil fields.

Pilling says the new School of Engineering building is scheduled to open next fall in 2020. He says opportunities are still available to anyone looking forward to donating financially and sponsor laboratories, classrooms and even the naming of the new School of Engineering building.