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School of Engineering

2016 Capstone IDC Teams

Innovation Design Clinic | Engineering Service Learning | Mobile App Challenge

Capstone (IDC) Teams (24) | Spring 2016

(For prior years team descriptions, visit our Teams Archive)

View our Spring 2016 Capstone Finalists & Winners!

1. Pullet Transfer

Sponsor: Poultry Breeder Business

UCM Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gerardo Diaz

The pullet-transfer process includes the physical movement of live pullets from one facility to another. New, more efficient methods of transporting birds could help the industry financially, including by minimizing bird injury, cutting down on time and labor and by enhancing animal welfare. The goal of this project is to analyze the current methods of bird movement and design more efficient methods of transportation.

2. Robot Optimization

Sponsor: Pitman Family Farms

UCM Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gerardo Diaz

Two robotic arms have been installed at Pitman Family Farms (PFF) processing facility in Sanger. The goal of the Automated Robotic Motion Solutions (ARMS) team is to maximize the use of these robotic stacking arms and minimize the manual staking by analyzing PFF production data and creating an efficient algorithm that will assign the highest volume code during any given day or time to the robotic arms.

3. Woody Biomass Utilization

Sponsor: Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority

UCM Faculty Mentor: Dr. Robert Rice

Every year, about 80,000,000 board feet of woody biomass are generated in the national forest within Tuolumne County. There are more than 2,000,000 tons of woody biomass (pine needles, branches, barks and dead trees) on the forest floor. This sets the stage for record-breaking fires like the Rim Fire. It is our goal to design a method to remove the woody biomass and use it as a sustainable source of energy while minimizing the cost of removal.

4. Robotic Bedding Cleaner for Poultry Farms

Sponsor - CEO Agrecom,Inc.

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Gerardo Diaz

Agrecom, a commercial poultry-cleaning company, needs a replacement for the manual rototilling of large poultry houses, and would like a robot that performs the same operation without disturbing the poultry and can run continuously within the poultry house. This device needs to rototill and treat poultry bedding which is made of wood chips, paper pellets or rice hulls and is a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.

5. Continuous Ion-Exchange Hardness Removal, Phase II

Sponsor : California Department of Water Resources

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Wolfgang Rogge

The California Aqueduct provides water for the west side of the San Joaquin Valley from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. During drought years, water for farming is expensive and/or unavailable. Shallow groundwater exists throughout the farming area, but is of little value due to elevated salt concentrations. Currently, a vapor compression distillation (VCD) unit that emphasizes energy conservation is used to treat the water. The VCD unit is mobile and has treated a wide range of water qualities, but the VCD unit cannot accommodate calcium. We are designing an ion-exchange method to pretreat the water.

6. TeleCheck (Long Distance UAS)

Sponsor : PG&E

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. YangQuan Chen

TeleCheck works with PG&E to develop a more suitable way to inspect long, linear pipelines and power lines. PG&E is looking at implementing an unmanned aerial system (UAS) for more efficient, safer pipeline inspection. We’re designing a system that can control a UAS on long-distance missions — greater than 100 miles — while ensuring reliable control. TeleCheck aims to develop and test a reliable, stand-alone telecommunications and video system to reach long distances for such applications.

7. Blanched Almond Wet Room Optimization

Sponsor : Blue Diamond Growers

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Robert Rice

At the Blue Diamond Grower’s Turlock processing plant, raw almonds are introduced into the processing line, rinsed with 160 degree water, and then pasteurized at 190 degrees Fahrenheit in a steam scalder. From there the almonds continue through the line to be blanched, cut, dried and packaged. Our problem is centered on the pre-rinse water delivery system, which is currently the cause of much downtime in the blanched almond lines. The primary issue is the length of time that is needed for the supply tank to reach the operating temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Secondary quality concerns relate to the color of the recirculating rinse water which darkens continuously in the current system. Our mission is to design a system to supply hot water to the production line, meeting quality standards, and reducing downtime by at least 50% of the downtime of the current system.

8. Bubbly (L12 Optimization, Modesto Bottling)

Sponsor : E&J Gallo Winery

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Anand Subramaniam

As the largest winery in the world, E&J Gallo bottles more than 70 million cases of wine each year at the Modesto campus. Gallo’s line of sparkling wines is a growing business sector. In Modesto, there are two lines, 12 and 13, that produce all sparkling products and are reaching the maximum capacity of throughput. As demand for this product continues to grow, Gallo must optimize production to meet customer demands. New products are being developed and produced on Line 12, the focus of this project. We’ll research, develop and design solutions for Line 12 to reduce line change over time by 10 percent, optimizing production of case throughput. The design will include a complete cost estimate for implementation, and safety and risk implications will be documented.

9. Steam Optimization of the Fresno Stills

Sponsor : E & J Gallo Winery

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Anand Subramaniam

E&J Gallo’s Fresno distillery has distillation columns for recovering and concentrating alcohol from waste streams and producing brandy. But a lot of steam is needed to drive the separation in both processes. We’re working to help Gallo reduce production costs by evaluating technologies and operations strategies that that can reduce steam use by a minimum of 5 percent reduction, and find available an appropriate technological solutions. We’ll offer detailed calculations and cost estimates to support our recommendations.

10. Application of Salt to Cheese Curds

Sponsor : Hilmar Ingredients

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Robert Rice

Hilmar Cheese Company needs an efficient and effective way to distribute and apply salt continuously through the cheese-processing system. Our project is to develop a cost-effective system to evenly apply salt across a 12-foot-wide bed of loose cheese curds. The current process applies salt at four separate points across the bed, but we’re designing a way to apply salt continuously across the entire width with a system that is easily cleaned.

11. Testing Well Water for Contaminants

Sponsor : Hilmar Ingredients

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Robert Rice

Aqua Remediation & Technologies is partnered with Hilmar Cheese Company to design a water filtration system that can be applied at the main facility in Hilmar. Hilmar Cheese’s factory uses groundwater pumped from two wells on site. Contaminant levels in the well water must be lowered to meet the California Primary Drinking Water Standards. We are designing a new filtration design.

12. Peach Peeling Efficiency

Sponsor: Central Valley Fruit Processor

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Ashlie Martini and Dr. Thomas Peterson

The Peach Perfect team aims to optimize a commercial peach-peeling process that uses a lye solution to remove peach skins. We’re providing an analysis of the current system to pinpoint inefficiencies and try to quantify the deterioration of the recirculated lye over time. During peach-peeling season — from about June 15 to Sept. 15 — the system is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a day taken every two or three weeks to manually clean the system. Major areas of concern in the process are the effluent neutralization, where acid is added to the basic effluent, and yield loss, or the difference in weight between a batch of peaches before and after they are peeled. Quantitatively being able to determine when the recirculated lye is no longer efficient at peeling would enable our sponsor to better plan for the neutralization of effluent from the process and minimize yield loss.

13. Sun Chips Tote Accuracy

Sponsor: Frito-Lay

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Robert Rice

The Frito-Lay Modesto facility creates large totes of Sun Chips in the processing area of a line that produces upwards of 3,000 pounds per hour. The Sun Chips processing line moves the product up an incline to feed into packaging. The product falls into a spiral, through a foreign-matter detector and into a large tote. These totes are sent to co-packers to create additional products for consumers. When the operators switch between totes, there is currently no way to temporarily stop the flow of product. This creates waste and breakage. Our mission is to create a mechanism that can improve accuracy product weighing, create a temporary stop of flow and improve efficiency.

14. Universal Clutch

Sponsor : Cal Weld

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Ala Qattawi

High-precision and high-purity welds are an integral component of semiconductor equipment and production. To achieve industry standards, skilled workers need precision equipment such as variable speed turntables to properly, quickly and accurately weld components. But current turntables lack integrated clutches, so welders cannot freely rotate parts or assemblies. In addition, the high-frequency electric motors on the turntables can interfere with certain welding equipment. We are designing an easily integrated clutch that allows welders to seamlessly engage or disengage turntables from their motors during operation, so the parts or assemblies can be moved freely without interfering with welding equipment.

15. Trash Compactor Bin Design

Sponsor : Olam International

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Gerardo Diaz

Olam’s Hanford facility uses two separate waste-disposal systems: one for disposing of lighter material and one for heavier materials such as rocks. Our objective is to combine the two systems into one while addressing preventative issues such as new disposal rates and sizing issues.

16. Effective Rinsing of Empty Jars

Sponsor : Olam International

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Gerardo Diaz

The empty jars that will later be filled with products need to be very clean and free of any dust or even broken glass. The rinsing process currently uses fresh water that is immediately disposed of after use. Olam would like to make the process more sustainable and environmentally friendly, so we are exploring alternative technologies to reduce the use and waste of water.

17. Tomato Harvester for Fresh Market Tomatoes, Phase II

Sponsor: Red Rooster Tomato

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Ashlie Martini

Fresh-market tomatoes are conventionally hand-picked when green, with an emphasis placed on appearance and quality. Because processing tomato harvesters have the potential to puncture and scratch the fruit during the mechanical separation phase, they are not suitable. However, our team is looking at modifications that could result in a less physically demanding, more efficient and more tomato-friendly harvester.

18. MicroCT ScannerCalibration

Sponsor/UCM Faculty Mentor: Dr. Changqing Li

Computed tomography (CT) is used to image the internal structure of living organisms through X-ray emission. A CT scanner must be calibrated before use for good imaging quality. MicroScan is working to calibrate the sponsor’s CT scanner and provide a semi-automatic solution to retrieve images. After this mission, the MicroScan team can provide a template research platform for UC Merced and allow research labs to use the CT scanner to make their research convenient.

19. Medical Diagnostic Tool for Use in Resource-Limited Settings

Sponsor/UCM Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anand Subramaniam

Successful biosensors are sophisticated pieces of technology, requiring optimized device design for signal processing and fluid handling, material properties and biological interactions to obtain reproducible readouts of disease markers. Our goal is to develop innovative solutions for integrated, quantitative, easy-to-use, low- to no-power point-of-care diagnostics that can be applied in all settings —including in the field and when resources are limited. The technology centered around magnetic levitation will allow for quick, economical and accurate results.

20. Mobile Biological Treatment System Design

Sponsor: UC Merced

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Ashlie Martini

The goal of this project is to design and construct a mobile biological treatment system that can be used for pilot testing in the field. Example applications include municipal wastewater treatment, dairy/cattle farm runoff, food processing wastewater and pump-and-treat groundwater remediation.

21. Solar Powered Mobile Charging Station Kiosk for UC Merced

Sponsor : CITRIS

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Anand Subramaniam

The UC Merced campus doesn’t have enough charging ports for the electronic devices of a growing number of faculty members, students and staff members. This is most evident in the library, where students are often seen charging in the most awkward places. We plan to design and manufacture a mobile charging kiosk to allow students to power up their devices in an environmentally responsible manner. Charging stations exist commercially, but none provide all the desired features. The first goal in designing the kiosk is sustainability through solar panels. The second goal is to provide a safe and comfortable environment for students to study while charging. The third goal of this project is to promote CITRIS to the UC Merced campus through interactive media.

22. Improved Efficiency and Safety Design for Wilderness-Use Composting Toilets, Phase III

Sponsor: National Park Institute, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, Health Sciences Research Institute

UCM Faculty Mentor : Dr. Roland Winston

The goal of the project is to design an off-grid reliable and inexpensive solution to existing, commercially available composting toilets. The goal is to design a rugged, effective, solar-powered, modular product that can easily be transported to and assembled in remote wilderness areas. The toilets have to be sturdy and able to withstand extreme temperatures, weather, wind and even seismic activity. The team is also developing a collateral benefit through adaptation of this solar-based system that will produce safe drinking water from snow in cold climates without the use of fossil fuels or forest products for energy. A successful design will have positive consequences for public-park waste-management challenges around the world, and positive applications through organizations such as the United Nations and poverty-fighting field programs of non-governmental organizations, such as the World Bank, which work to help emerging societies with remote communities face the challenges of human-waste management, clean water, disease reduction and human conflict.

23. Microfluidic System for Rapid Quantification of Microbial Adaptation to Oil Spills

Sponsor/UCM Faculty Mentor: Dr. Wei-Chun Chin

The explosion of Deepwater Horizon (DwH) drilling rig in the northern Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was the largest U.S. petroleum industry accident in history. It spilled 4.1 million barrels of oil, 60 percent of which reached the gulf’s surface.

The goal of this project is to design a microfluidic device or devices that create concentration gradients of different values for microbial adaptation studies. The devices should generate a concentration gradient of 1-100 ppm/mm, have a temperature range of 0-30 Celsius, accommodate sample sizes of 200µl-2 ml, have easy access to sample ports, be compact for microscope use and be made of an oil-resistant polymer. Crude oil releases are treated with dispersants, which solvated crude oil deeper into the ocean, furthering exposure of marine life that lives in the water and on the ocean floor. Very few studies have analyzed the interaction between crude oil and microbes. Our particular interest is microbial adaptation to heterogeneity (concentration gradient) caused by the crude oil still present in the ocean/ocean floor.

24. Commissary Energy Conservation System

Sponsor: UC Merced Blum Center

UCM Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anand Subramaniam

The goal of this project is to create a replicable and scalable method of making restaurants more energy and water efficient. Specifically, at Gateway Gardens in Merced, the team is developing solutions to reduce fossil-fuel emissions by 50 percent. The main solution for addressing this issue is by controlling the ventilation system and the water pressure and installing a photovoltaic system on the building, all of which will reduce fossil-fuel emissions and decrease building operation costs. Gateway Gardens is launching one of the region’s first commissaries — a shared kitchen facility to allow local chefs, caterers and other food entrepreneurs easier startups by sharing resources and costs. The overall goal is to improve food options and access for Merced and surrounding areas.