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James Madison University Capstone Project Presentations

Date: Wednesday March 26, 2014

The JMU Engineering Capstone Projects are unique in that they span two years (four semesters), allowing the students much more depth and bredth in their project. Additional details on JMU's Engineering program are in Dr. Olga Pierrakos's presentation "Crossing Boundaries in Engineering: From Problem Solving to Building Partnerships" (5.1 MB PDF) from September 2013.

Team One:
Eric Leaman, Senior - Engineering - James Madison University
Jack Cochran, Senior - Engineering - James Madison University

Team Two:

Brittany Harwell, Senior - Engineering - James Madison University
Tanvir (Tony) Battu, Senior - Engineering - James Madison University

Team One Subject: Two-phase Energy System - View Presentation (2.08 MB PDF)

Team Two Subject: Distributable Hearing Testing System - View Presentation (1.14 MB PDF)

Team One Abstract:

This project explores the technical challenge of sustainability as it relates to solar energy production, storage, and consumption. This research specifically addresses the use of chemical batteries in residential photovoltaic energy systems and attempts to eliminate their need as a method of energy storage. Its successful implementation will directly reduce hazardous battery waste and indirectly reduce carbon-emissions by decreasing dependency on fossil-fuel burning power plants. In addition, this research may provide a cheap and dependable method for energy storage in very remote or poor locations.

The challenge is addressed through the design of a two-phase renewable energy system that will provide electrical energy during both day and night without the use of chemical batteries. “Phase One” comprises the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy using photovoltaic panels for both immediate supply to the household load and for storage in a fluid based system. “Phase Two” comprises the conversion of the stored potential energy back into electrical energy. Methods of energy storage chosen for investigation are compressed air energy storage (CAES) and pumped-hydroelectric energy storage (PHES). Mathematical models using typical energy output-over-energy input efficiency values are used to first estimate system parameters such as reservoir volume and height or pressure requirements. Based on the results, components and the methods of energy storage are selected. A dynamic systems-level model is then used to estimate energy output and efficiency as a function of changing system parameters using specifications of actual commercial components. The models are validated by simulating full scale conditions using a fluid reservoir and a pump. Finally, a system prototype utilizing solar energy to transport fluid for energy storage is constructed based on the recommendations of the validated models. The amount of energy required and the total output energy that can be harvested based on the volume of fluid transported is measured. Testing results are used to evaluate feasibility and solidify the size requirements for a real two-phase system.

Team Two Abstract:

The distributable hearing test platform is a novel advancement for research in audiology. With this system, scientists will be able to collect longitudinal data on patients before and after they have undergone various interventions to ameliorate hearing loss. The testing system is deployable to patients’ homes where they can take the hearing tests at their convenience. Due to cost restrictions, patients are currently only able to test their hearing using a pure tone threshold test before surgery and one month after. In contrast with pure tone threshold tests, our system tests the extent of the ability of the patient to use binaural processing after correction from years of unilateral or bilateral hearing loss. The hearing tests we administer are more realistic and they will provide data useful for understanding how the brain learns to use a ‘new’ ear. Receiving the hearing test system is significantly cheaper and more convenient for the patient than traveling to take the pure tone threshold tests. The system currently includes two hearing tests - one that tests the ability to localize sound and another that tests the ability to distinguish speech from noise. This team has focused on the development of the speech-in-noise test. This paper will focus on the design, development, and testing of a beta prototype for an automated speech-in-noise test implemented on the portable hearing test platform using the Coordinate Response Measure Corpus. The portable hearing test platform and sound localization test, includes a laptop and mouse, eight speakers arranged in an array, a microphone, and a webcam. The sound localization test involves identifying from which speaker a signal has played. A written instruction manual is provided for set up and the software guides the user through his or her prescribed tests. The team is using both field and local data not only to refine the user friendliness of distributed package but also to validate the speech-in-noise test. The speech-in-noise test was validated through a significant difference between one- and two-eared local volunteers (group-by-linear contrast interaction in repeated measures ANOVA: F1,9=6.8, p=.029, pη2=.43). Thus the test is sensitive to differences between true uni- and bi-lateral listeners (significant and ‘large’ effect) and thus it is sensitive to medical amelioration of hearing losses that will hopefully help previously unilateral listeners accrue binaural benefits. The alpha prototype for the speech in noise hearing test has been validated and deployed to our first testing site: UVA’s Department of Otolaryngology, where it will acquire initial data on sound localization and speech in noise abilities. The final beta prototype, which will be delivered to our client in May 2014, will be sent to patients’ homes to allow for long-term data collection.

Team One Biographical Information:

Eric Leaman is a senior engineering major and mathematics minor at James Madison University. Originally from Arvada, Colorado, Eric has lived in Harrisonburg for almost 14 years. During his time as an undergraduate he has worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation and spent a summer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. His research interests lie in system dynamics, especially electromechanical systems, modeling, and control theory, and plans to attend graduate school beginning next fall in pursuit of an M.S. in mechanical or electrical engineering.

Jack Cochran is a senior engineering major and physics minor at James Madison University. His hometown is Fairfax, Virginia. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school in mechanical engineering to study propulsion systems.

Team Two Biographical Information:

Brittany Harwell is a senior engineering major from Virginia Beach, VA. She aspires to become a biomedical engineer who designs medical devices. She plans to pursue this goal through industry after graduation.

Tanvir Battu is a senior engineering major from Centreville, Virginia where he attended Centreville High School. He is currently a member of Sigma Phi Delta Engineering Fraternity.

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