CoLab 2018

An evening of invention brings together multiple departments to improve bicycle safety

Orange bicycle posistioned in some green grass.
This year, six engineering students, three product design students, and one computer science student came together with the goal of inventing practical solutions to aid bicycle safety.

Walla Walla University held its second annual CoLab (collaborative lab) event in January. Coordinated by Pablo Wenceslao, visiting professor of product design, and Ralph Stirling, project engineer for the School of Engineering, this event brought multiple departments together for a fun evening of contest and collaboration. This year, six engineering students, three product design students, and one computer science student came together with the goal of inventing practical solutions to aid bicycle safety. Six faculty members, two from each of the three programs, supervised the event, offering professional opinions.

Participants started off by collectively discussing ideas for potential inventions. There were three suggested challenges: communication from cyclists to drivers, situational awareness for cyclists, and maintaining control. Participants then gathered into two smaller groups. With only three hours on the clock, ideas had to be quickly put into action. One group set out to create a light sensor extending out from the bicycle handlebars that would help cars better notice cyclists at night. The second group chose to construct a proximity sensor that would allow cyclists to be more aware of their surroundings while on the road. The students in the product design program designed an enclosure for these sensors, modeled with clay and cardboard, that was mounted to a bike seat.

The goal of this event is to challenge participants to work quickly in groups while they work to create a practical invention. It is meant to be both challenging and fun. Participants also received a $20 gift certificate.

“The students seemed to enjoy the activity and noted that they worked faster with the interdisciplinary groups,” said Wenceslao.

“This event was fantastic because it allowed me to gain real-world experience in engineering,” said Tamera Brown, freshman electrical engineering major. “It also allowed me to apply skills I had learned previously to create a working prototype. I found that rather interesting.”

WWU has plans to make this an annual event involving students from other departments around campus.

Posted April 19, 2018

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