Smith Engineers Design Projects for the Rapidly Changing World
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Students who enrolled at Smith College a year after September 11, 2001, entered college with an acute awareness of the nation’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
A team of those students, now senior engineering majors, recently tackled a project that reflects the realities of today’s rapidly changing world. They designed equipment that would respond to another potential terrorist attack, this one involving deadly biological agents.
Facilities already exist to decontaminate victims of such an attack. However, equipment necessary to treat the water used to rinse the biological agents from those victims has not yet been created.
That was the task given to the Smith College team, a group of four students, by the engineering consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill. In response, the team designed a hazardous materials treatment unit that meets Centers for Disease Control regulations and could travel to victims and treat the wash water as it accumulates.
The team is one of nine enrolled in the engineering Design Clinic that spent the academic year developing solutions to real-world problems. The problems are given to them by participating organizations, such as Ford Motor Company, General Electric and the Department of Environmental Protection, whose engineers face similar assignments.
A primary goal of the projects is public benefit, and the resulting designs focus on cost-effectiveness, environmental impact, availability of resources and quality, according to Susannah V. Howe, assistant professor of engineering and the Design Clinic director.
Designed by Smith seniors Sarah Breen, Sara Green, Sarah Mahon and Krysten Oates, the hazardous materials treatment unit certainly meets the primary goal of the assignment: public benefit. By neutralizing the biological agents in the wash water, the unit would eliminate the potential for further infection.
In addition to that project, other student teams this year designed such things as a storm drainage system for a street in the City of Northampton, a robot to identify mis-shelved library books, a sustainable power generation design for a lumber company and a fishway for a dam in West Bridgewater, Mass.
The Design Clinic allows students “to approach engineering holistically and recognize that good engineering design requires a balance of technical acumen and other skills,” Howe said. “In addition to producing a design solution or product, students also learn first-hand about the design process in an applied setting.”
The students make up the third class of engineers to graduate from the Picker Engineering Program. Established in 1999, the program is the first at a U.S. women’s college.
Read about the projects.
See the teams.
Office of College
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174