Physics and Engineering Senior Project

A student works on the computer.

All engineering majors work on a capstone engineering project. The senior project provides the opportunity for you to combine the knowledge you gain from your many classes and use it to build a final product.

2022-2023 Senior Projects

Machine Learning Analysis of Doxorubicin and PLGA-treated Heart Cells
Jacob Groh
A machine learning analysis was performed on a dataset acquired using flow cytometry from rodent heart cells treated with doxorubicin (DOX) and poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA). The k-means clustering algorithm was used to identify three data clusters, then the random-forest classification algorithm was used to characterize the clusters as representing untreated cells, unviable DOX-treated cells, and viable DOX-treated cells. Analysis using the random-forest regression algorithm showed that the viable DOX-treated cells tended to have been PLGA-treated as well. It also showed that cell viability was closely correlated to DOX concentration and cell autofluorescence. Overall, this research demonstrates the utility of the k-means clustering and random-forest algorithms for characterizing flow cytometry data.

Design of Wireless Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle
Connor D. Caldwell and Josiah S. Dawson
The design process, fabrication procedures, and test results of a wirelessly controlled underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) are explained and justified in this paper. The ROV utilizes pre-existing sonar devices developed by Blueprint Subsea, known as SeaTrac devices, to send and receive the control signals. Brushless motors and servo motors are implemented to provide thrust and turning capabilities. A protective frame is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and mounting parts are made out of polylactic acid (PLA), fabricated via 3D printing. The resulting ROV omits the control signal tether commonly used in underwater ROV design with the intent to increase complex maneuver capability and reduce tangle likelihood over the typical underwater ROV design. The goal of the project is to demonstrate adequate proof of concept: that sonar is a viable method to send control signals to an underwater ROV. After testing the completed ROV in a pool, it was determined that the vehicle could be successfully controlled via user input from an Xbox controller. The control signals were successfully sent and received through sonar, demonstrating proof of concept for sending control signals to underwater ROVs wirelessly.

Dual-Axis Solar-Tracking System
Moranda C. Beckman and Madison K. Corder
Solar energy is a renewable, clean, and abundant source of energy. Efficient collection of solar energy is crucial in mitigating the impact of climate change. Solar-tracking devices are useful for maximizing the solar energy collection of solar panels. The aim of this project is to design and optimize a dual-axis solar-tracking system for a micro scale 5-watt(W) panel solar installation. The prototype design integrates mechanical and electrical components with an Arduino microcontroller. The design is modular and can be adjusted to test and compare angle and dual-or single-axis tracking. The experiment will show the net energy collection by a tracking system and compare it to the energy collection of fixed panel.

StarTrac Final Report
Jonathan Noble
The StarTrac serves as a device with which inexperienced telescopists can easily locate celestial bodies through a telescope. The device rotates about two axes, horizontal and vertical, and can be aimed at any part in the sky. While the accuracy of the StarTrac leaves something to be desired in terms of accuracy, the device is still fully functional for the purposes of an inexperienced telescopist with a small telescope. While the desired target won’t always be centered in the telescope, it will still be within the field of vision the majority of the time.

2021-22 Senior Projects

Accessible DIY Bike Dynamos for Power Accessibility in Impoverished Communities
Jacob Morrison and Abel Haynes

Bike dynamos are devices that allow cyclists to generate and harvest electricity while traveling. The goal of our senior project is to create a dynamo design that is accessible and easy to construct/replicate. Our design is unique in that it utilizes more available area of the wheel than traditional dynamos, which makes it easier to construct by hand while still generating usable power. The power output and cost of our small scale prototype was measured and compared to existing bike dynamos, which served as the control group. From there, we were able to assume if the large scale prototype would meet the needs of our project. To determine this, experimentation with the small scale model of alternative bike generator prototypes was conducted. Ultimately, our project was successful and we found that it is possible to create a simple and cheap dynamo that can be mounted on a bike at costs as low as U.S. $40.

A Machine Learning Analysis of PLGA
Levi McClurg

An analysis of the compound known as poly lactic-co-glycolic-acid (PLGA) was conducted using Pythons TensorFlow machine learning ADAM algorithm. The algorithm was ran against 1.32 million rodent heart cells with each cell having 17 different parameters associated with it in order to determine the viability of PLGA to reduce cardio-toxicity in cancer patients. The algorithm determined with a high degree of accuracy the potential therapeutic properties of PLGA meaning it could very well play an important role in the recovery of millions of cancer patients worldwide. Additionally a geometrically accurate 3D model of PLGA was created using a LAAMPS data format. This model was created with future hopes to make a physical model of the zeta potential of PLGA as a function of chain length in order to determine physically the disassociative properties of the compound.

Foil Surf Fin
Lincoln Gillette, Cory Johnson, and Royce Gonzalez

In this project research and development is conducted on the fluid dynamics of surf fins. This will be done by analyzing and researching how to increase the efficiency of fins through minimizing turbulent forces and increasing lift. Turbulence on a surf fin can be reduced through modifications to the shape of the fin’s body, as well as the addition of winglets to the tip. After producing a control fin, development of a airplane wing-like fin was conducted by the group. Simulation results show that the use of a NACA approved fin profile shapes, and the addition of winglets along the tip of the fin reduced turbulent flow behind the fin as well as created lift. Small scale experiments along with Computational fluid dynamics performed digitally reinforced our hypothesis behind the design of the fin.

Analyzing Feasibility and Recoil Time of Ferrofluid in Bike Shocks
Mackenzie Kimmel, Nicholas Piechowski, and Cameron Crecelius

This project involves testing and improving upon the suspension system of a bicycle’s rear shock absorber by integrating a design with ferrofluid and magnets as opposed to a traditional hydraulic oil shock. We aimed to maximize the damping between the tires and the ground which would allow for more control beneficial to high performance vehicles. This project breaks down the physical mechanics of a bike shock and builds upon that foundation with our research of ferrofluid and its behavior. We designed a 3D bike shock that would hold both ferrofluid and traditional oil to compare their differences in structure as well as its recoil time when put under a specific load. One shock was used as a control variable to make observations while the other shock was built with neodymium magnets to work against the force of the ferrofluid as its suspension. We saw that the structure of the shock was important to the fabrication of our design. Our initial hydraulic measurements had an average recoil velocity of 5.76 cm/s. The average recoil time with ferrofluid was 2.8 times faster at a velocity of 16.3 cm/s.

2020-21 Senior Projects

The Smart Garden
Jenriq Olesco and Christian Mitchell

In the age of the smartphone and the ever-growing busyness of everyday life, it has never been more important to maximize the efficiency of everyday life. This why over the course of around 15 weeks, we decided to develop the smart garden. This is an automated irrigation system that is powered by renewable energy. The product distributes water automatically to a plant when the moisture level is below a healthy amount read by the sensor.

Sound Interpretation Device S.I.D.
Lindsey Plavcan and Edward Schultz

The goal of our team was to design and build a device that could translate music into vibrational equivalents to create an alternative way for a user to experience music without sound. The device has the objectives of interpreting audio as data, translating data, and outputting vibration based around this audio data.

Electronically Stabilized Drink Holder
Myles Dornhofer

The goal of this project was to create an electronically stabilized cup holder for someone’s car. It not only could create a solution to a constant problem, but it also created a lot of learning experiences. This project will focus on using accelerometer and gyroscope data, an Arduino board, and RC motors.

Senior Project: Motorcycle Self-Canceling Lean Angle Sensor
Noah Castellon and Jake Cummings

The goal of this project was to create a safer motorcycle by implementing an automatically canceling turn signal based on the lean angle of the motorcycle while simultaneously gaining experience with Arduino and with problem solving. Our materials included an Arduino Uno kit and an MPU-6050 accelerometer.

3D Model of AI generated Chair
Philip Nasralla

Senior project supervised by Dr. Schmelzenbach. The project explores AI's relationship with the creative process. By automating parts of the creative process of a project the engineering process becomes the main focus. After using Machine learning to generate images of chairs, one was chosen to 3D model. 10% of the trained model proved to be usable forms resulting in 50 images of possible builds. A CAD model of the chosen image was made in Fusion 360, but is not yet a stable structure usable after printing.

2019-20 Senior Projects

Integration of circuits and servos to automate a motorcycle kickstand
David Pacheco

The main objective of this project is to integrate mechanical engineering, circuit building, programming, 3D modeling, and 3D printing. Using these various techniques to create an automated motorcycle kickstand. I have procured all of the necessary materials, designed a demonstration/testing stand in Autodesk Inventor, built my circuit and programmed basic control of the kickstand. After perfecting my code, my sensors were able to cause a trigger event deploying the kickstand via servos. My motivation was my drive to implement as much engineering as possible while completing my goal.

Radio Antenna Received Signal Strength Navigation for Use in Autonomous Robotics
Abigail Christensen, Joey Tuttobene, and Isaac Hughes (Fall Semester)

This project aims to create a proof of concept for an indoor GPS-like network for robotic position navigation. The original goal was to create two or more antennas, all operating at a specified frequency (915 MHz), that could be used to triangulate the robot’s location based on message timestamps. Due to measuring equipment limitations, location based on timestamps was infeasible, and an alternative metric based around the received signal strength indicator (RSSI) was used. This research study utilizes an existing LoRa antenna system, created for use with a Raspberry Pi. The final robot is controlled by a Raspberry Pi and Arduino combination and powers its four motors over a variety of terrains with a 99.6 Wh battery pack. Proof of concept distance predictions based on RSSI were attempted, and could be extended to location by triangulation given enough antennas. It has been concluded that this system could be integrated to provide reasonable distance estimates for mobile robots that cannot get a GPS signal. However, the current antenna system is vulnerable to noise, interference, and environmental factors such as metal or concrete obstructions and other transmissions on the same band.

Investigation of Track Formation in CR-39 for Various Hydrated Environments
Micah Karahadian, Austin Smith, and Emma Vahle

CR-39, a thermoset resin, is a well characterized integrative detector that, when etched, shows tracks created by energetic charged particles produced in nuclear reac- tions. It has been questioned whether this detection method can be used in palladium and deuterium (Pd/D) electrolytic cell environments. Of concern is whether the py- rophoric nature of hydrogen’s interaction with palladium and its recombination with oxygen within the cell can create similar tracks. The validity of this detection method in an electrolytic cell environment is investigated. Additionally, track comparisons from detectors used in a Pd/D co-deposition experiments utilizing 40K or 6Li electrolytes were done to determine if 6Li contributes to the observed tracks.

Characterizing a distributed pressure sensor built from off-the-shelf piezoresistive polymer
TJ Wiegman

Measuring the distribution of mechanical pressure across a surface is useful in a wide variety of applications, but traditional measurement tools are either very expensive or single-use. Here we characterize a flexible, reusable sensor built from off-the-shelf materials that is simple and low-cost, but unsuited for high-precision work.

Edge-Deployed Image Analysis
Noah R. Cole

Dr. Botts and I are working on using Edge-Deployed Image Analysis to assist PLNU’s Bio Department with their work in identifying Costa Rican wildlife. Image Analysis would help streamline the process of identifying species captured on remote cameras, resulting in valuable data for the biologists being ready faster than before. Thus far, I have successfully deployed models on a remote computer (Raspberry Pi) but have not used the models on the Costa Rica data. Next semester, I will retrain a model to be used on the Costa Rica image data.

Aerial Imaging Drone
Marteen Castellon, Xuesong Han, Brett Jeske, Erika Weisdorfer

In this project, our team designed and developed a prototype for a drone with imaging capabilities that uses Microsoft Azure and artificial intelligence to stitch together images of an environment and utilize trigonometric identities in order to ultimately create a 3-dimensional rendering of the environment.

2018-19 Senior Projects

Kinetic Energy Storage in Flywheel
Braden Hulse, Alex Mathews, Phillip Ward

The goal of the project was to find an efficient way to store energy.  Using kinetic rotational energy in a low friction environment enables storage of energy that can be utilized and converted at a different time to electrical potential energy. Using this concept, the team were able to get out of the system a voltage at a frequency, proving that storage of energy through the means of a kinetic battery is feasible at a larger scale.

1970 Volkswagen Beetle Aerodynamics
Andrew Apffel, Eric Lu, and Alexander Hsia

The team designed, built, and tested the effect of a Clark-Y air foil on the performance of a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle.  The airfoil was built mainly by 3-D printing.  The detailed aerodynamics mechanism was studied using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and further tests were run in a home-built wind tunnel.  Through various methods, the team found that the addition of the airfoil at the rear end of the vehicle increases the down force, which improves stability, and decrease drag, which enhances fuel efficiency. 

Powering Light with a 3D Engine
Kelsey  Blackwood,  Ethan  Hammershaimb,  Colby  Kaneshiro,  Joseph  Polanski

The team designed, built, and tested a prototype of a generator.  The mechanical energy was generated by a hand crank to the gears that turned the generators and motors to create electricity to light up a light bulb.  Voltage output as a function of rotation rates was investigated, and higher rotation rates was found give higher efficiency.  The unique manual nature of the apparatus allows users to control and read out the input/output at any given instance.

One Wheel Hoverboard
Alex Koch, Daniel Bozarth, Erika Weisdorfer

The team designed, built, and tested a one-wheel hoverboard for the goals of faster speed, better balance, lower cost, and higher energy efficiency.  The team took apart a two-wheel Razer hoverboard, researched about each of its internal parts, and achieved a mono-wheel version at a fraction of the original cost. 

Rocker Bogie Rover
Hayden Humphrey, Marlon Monzon, and Mathieu Lao

The Rocker Bogie Rover is a remote-controlled rover that utilizes a pivot in its forward legs to easily maneuver over various obstacles and inclines. The team created a simplified and low-cost version of the NASA rover that consists of four motors which are operated by a Raspberry Pi computer chip.

2017-18 Senior Projects

Wire Guided Rocket Sled
Ryan Laughbon and Donovan Rosellini

This team designed, built, and tested a model rocket sled. The sled was powered by Estes rocket engines and carried 2 small payload bays. The sled's performance was tested and analyzed for acceleration parameters and payload protection on impact.

An Arduino Based Video Game Controller
Katie Quiros, Daniel Lopez, and Estifanos Mekuria

This team designed, built, and tested a video game controller which interfaced with a PC to play popular video games. The controller consisted of a Joystick and multiple buttons which were interfaced through an Arduino to a laptop computer. The system was programmed by the team to work with both Apple and PC based laptops.

Small Scale Energy Harvesting
Jennifer Ballez, Joshua Rodriguez, and Madison Berger

This research examined the possibility of building a magnetic system for harvesting energy within a shoe during the normal course of walking. It included the use of a multi-loop coil through which a magnet passed back and for the as the foot went through the walking motion. The team built a test prototype which measured the amount of charge that could be collected via this method.

Stair Climbing Robot
Matthew Sailer, Travis Ortiz, and Daniel Harper

This team designed, built, and tested a tracked stair-climbing robot. The robot successfully climbed one level of stairs of the Rohr Science building on campus.

Weather Balloon
Trenton Mulder, Daniel Solar, and Josh Little

This team designed a tethered data collection system using commercially available helium balloons. The system included a payload for measuring pressure, temperature and altitude, and transmitting the data to a ground station via an RF transmitter. The system was launched and successfully collected and transmitted data as it was designed to do.

2016-17 Senior Projects

Constructing Tunable Organ
Gabriel Becerra & David Graham

The tunes in organs are normally controlled by its length. In this project, a tunable organ with fixed length will be designed.

Synthesis and Crystal Structures of [TiCl6]- and [Ti2Cl10]2- Anions for Metal-Nitride Nanoclusters
Brendan Crabb

In recent years, the use of nanoclusters has grown considerably because of their role as single-molecule semiconductors. This research explored high-valent, high-nuclearity bismuth and titanium nitride clusters. Two crystals were obtained by self-assembly, [TiCl6]- and [Ti2Cl10]2-, with several different cations.

Modify the Brake Mechanism in Vehicle
Arend Valentin Doppenberg

In improving brakes in vehicles while avoiding replacing the whole brake, special parts will be designed and constructed.

Visualization of High Dimensional Image Features for Transfer Learning
Marissa Dotter

This research will examine the layer-by-layer visualizations of a convolutional neural network of an image's features and weights to determine if a particular dataset is suited for transfer learning. A statistical analysis will also be performed to further show the suitability of a dataset(s) for transfer learning to a different CNN architecture. 

Focused Laser for Cutting 
James Grove

This project will investigate ways to focus lasers and use the concentrated energy to cut objects.

Comparative Analysis of Efficiency for a Free Moving, Rotational, and Fixed Solar Panel
Joey Hudack & Jonah Husted

In this project, the efficiency of 3 different setups will be analyzed: a solar panel that can track the sun in two dimensions, a solar panel that can track the sun in one dimension, and a fixed solar panel.

Another Leg
Samala Johnson-Dawson

This project will involve the design, construction, and testing of a prosthetic leg for a dog that is missing one leg.

Decentralized Filtration System
Michael Lambert

In this project, a manual-mechanically powered filter will be designed to take in unpotable freshwater and pump out potable water. Filtering is done by a Nano-filtration membrane element and the needed water pressure is applied by a piston-lever system.

Exploring Passive Sound Reduction Techniques For UAVs
Travis Lemke and Dallas Probert

During the course of this project, we will explore multiple techniques to passively reduce the noise produced by the propellers on a UAV, specifically, a quadcopter. These techniques include reducing tip speed by experimenting with different props and absorbing sound waves using sound absorbing materials around the blades. A big piece of this project will be modeling and 3D printing an induction ring with the aim of absorbing sound while increasing efficiency. Using sound detection equipment, we will find the most efficient ways to reduce noise and implement multiple techniques at once on a UAV to maximize total noise reduction.

VIPIR Soldering Tool
Mitchell Loving

VIPIR is a satellite servicing tool that will hold a variety of attachments that will enable it to fix or upkeep satellites orbiting earth. For my project I plan to build a robotic arm attachment and modify it so that it can solder a broken circuit, a possible issue that a satellite may experience.

Coffee – Physics and Roasting
Corinne Pickle

Physics and engineering is the basis for the entire process of coffee. In this experiment, I looked at the physical changes involved during the roasting of the coffee and the effect that it has on flavor and acidity.

Investigating Projectile Motion 
Frank Race

In this project, a set up for projectile motion will be constructed involving springs and magnets.  The extra forces and velocity that give rise to projectile motion will be investigated.

The Impact of Ball Weight on the Game of Baseball
Kellen Sheppard

This is a study of how differing weights of baseballs with identical diameters could influence the velocity of pitches and batted balls and the distance of ball flight. The data was collected over 2 years by pitchers on the Point Loma Nazarene University baseball team.

Camera Memory: How Does It Work?
Andrew Straub

I have always wondered how cameras are able to store pictures and videos as memory. Some cameras have memory cards that have to be connected to the cameras themselves. The purpose of my project is to find out how the camera I am looking at is able to store data into its memory card.

Measuring the Resistivity of Fiber-Reinforced Plastic for the Deep Underground Neutrino 
Jennifer Tyler

In this project, the resistivity of fiber-reinforced plastic (FPR) was tested using very high voltage (~-3000 V) to see if the material could withstand the extreme environment (-180,000 V in liquid argon around 87 K or -186 C). My experiment was done at close to constant temperature (though I did get to dip the material in liquid nitrogen and then hit it with a mallet to see if it would break - it didn't). The data will be graphed to show the resistivity curve of the material.

Immersive Manifold Hydr-O Tapping Electricity Producer (or IMHOTEP, for short)
Ronnie Watkins

I believe God, our creator, is the ultimate architect. And, in his design of nature comes many ideas in which we borrow from. The power that water has when falling can literally move mountains. So, I have decided to call this device I.M.H.O.T.E.P. after the name of the famous architect of the Egyptians. His name means “the one who comes in peace”. And, since Imhotep was one of the only Egyptian commoners to receive divine status after death, I thought it fitting to name this structure after a god architect. This device can connect to a hose or pipe that would normally have water running through it. The device would get spun which would turn an arm that have a magnets on the end of it. The magnets would also be in the presence of copper coils that are connected to a circuit. The running water would cause a current to be formed so that you can harvest the electricity for re-usable energy to your liking.

2015–16 Senior Projects

Exploration of Robotic Motion
Ryan Bieber

A mobile robot was designed and constructed using the MSP430G2 LaunchPad. The final design bounced on springs and responded to sound and light inputs.

An Exploration of the Product Research and Design Process: Mini-Inflatable Tube Man
Drew Eby

The focus of this project was to research and understand the process of product design more fully from initial conception to marketing. The patent process was explored, the actual designing and testing of the product was done, and planning of how to market and effectively sell the product was undertaken.

Comparison of Raspberry Pi and Arduino in a Light-Show Application
Taylor Eldreth

The purpose of this project was to create a system that can take a music input and turn it into a visualization using LED lights and microcontrollers. During the project, research was conducted to determine which microcontroller runs the fastest and is the most effective in the three main components of the build: audio analyses, LED control, and servo control.

Graphene Growth
Alyssa Forber

The purpose of this project was to make 3/4” x 2” strips of graphene on copper foil by Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and evaluate the quality of the growths.

Building a Light Meter
David Galindo

The purpose of this project was to design, build, and test a light meter that would provide information in a format a photographer would find useful. An Arduino platform with light sensor was used.

Additive Analog Audio-Frequency Signal Synthesis
Clayton Hamill

The purpose of this project was to design and build an analog audio frequency synthesizer with the capacity to shape the output waveform via controllable parameters of individual harmonic amplitudes relative to the fundamental. The large scope goal is a playable, keyboard-style musical instrument, however, within this semester the result is a single audio frequency pitch and the first four overtones in the series along with amplitude control.

Dual Studio Floor Design
Timothy Peveler

The purpose of this project was to design, build, and test a low-cost multilevel floor design that isolates a microphone from the environment surrounding it. Noise from vibrations in the environment, such as walking in the studio, was considerably reduced.

Analyzing Lift in a Wind Tunnel
Daniel Sarkisian

In this project, a tabletop wind tunnel was constructed and optimized, and the aerodynamics over an aircraft wing were studied.

Research and Development to Achieve Optimum Clubface Material Performance
Alex Sidney

In this project, the performance of different metals (aluminum, steel, and grade 2 titanium) was tested when used as golf club faces, and their overall effect on the launch conditions, trajectory, and carry of a golf ball was observed. With the use of an old persimmon club (not manipulated) as a control, a persimmon golf club with three (manufactured) detachable metal faces, a Trackman 3e system, and a computer- controlled robotic arm (property of Golf Laboratories), the three metal faces were able to go under consistent swing conditions to accurately compare their overall performances.

The Effect of Driving Frequencies on a Suspension Bridge
Laura Skinner

A model suspension bridge was designed, built, and tested for this project. The suspension bridge was built out of wood, rope, and string, and different frequencies were run through a speaker that was attached to the bridge. The response oscillations from these driving frequencies were observed.

Static and Dynamic Loads on Warren Trusses
Nico Tagaloa

This experiment tests the strength of members in Warren trusses made of birch wood and basswood under static and dynamic loads. Forces in members were determined with a force sensor under the truss. Using the method of joints analysis, theoretical values of forces in members were determined and compared to the experimental values.

An Investigation on the Friction Loss in PVC Piping
Daniel ten Bosch

In this project, a 10m high piping system was constructed and friction loss was investigated. Pressure gauges and flow meters were used to make measurements that were compared with theoretical models.

Constructing and Testing of a Hydraulic Knuckle Crane
Lindsay Watson

In this project, a hydraulic knuckle crane was built, and force analysis was applied to each component. The crane was built using wood for the structure and syringes and vinyl tubes for the hydraulics. Once the hydraulics system was optimized, analysis was done to calculate the maximum force the syringes could withstand.

Efficiency of Stirling Engine
Matthew Watson

In this project, a fully operational Stirling engine was designed and built primarily out of 3D printed parts. The thermodynamics of the system were explored.​