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ESC awarded grants to seven groups to fund engineering projects, including a fighting robot and musical stairs in Mudd, to commemorate the school’s 150th anniversary.

A fighting robot, musical stairs in Mudd, and a motion sensor to alert students if someone is coming in the opposite direction on the Ferris Booth Commons stairs are a few of the projects that the Engineering Student Council awarded grants to on Thursday. 

The seven Student Project Grants recipients will receive between $200 and $1,300 from ESC to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The grants, which the ESC voted unanimously to fund last November, are designed to allow students pursue innovative engineering projects outside of the classroom.

Brian Wu, SEAS '15 and ESC vice president of finance, said in an email that the committee looked for ideas “that demonstrated technical difficulty, ingenuity, feasibility.”

While ESC originally voted to fund five projects, the council ultimately decided to fund all of the seven applicants who applied after reviewing the projects' blueprints and budgets. 

For the next two months, each team will work closely with ESC—which will oversee the purchase of all project materials­—to develop and complete its project. 

“We have several excellent engineers on the committee who will be able to offer their expertise regarding purchasing appropriate parts,” Wu said. “In addition, we will be working on a regular basis with each team to monitor their progress and solve any nontechnical obstacles, such as procuring lab space.”

Four seniors at SEAS will use their grant to launch CoderPrep, an app designed to help programmers and computer science majors prepare for job interviews.

“The programming that you learn in class isn't the kind of coding you do for a coding interview,” Don Yu, SEAS '14 and member of the CoderPrep team, said. “It's long or tricky puzzles.”

The app will simulate a coding interview and allow users to save a profile and progress through levels. Yu said the grant money will be used to fund the site after the founders graduate.

Other winning projects include motion sensors that will play music when students walk up the stairs of Mudd, a go-kart that will be used to teach students in the Formula SAE lab about mechanical and electrical engineering, and a bipedal robot capable of competing in robotics warefare competitions. 

Students working on the ChemECar, a car powered completely by chemical reactions, said that the grant will allow them to purchase necessary materials.

“The money will be used to either purchase or reimburse prior purchases of supplies that we need to build or fuel the car,” Veronica Li, SEAS '15, said in an email. “For example, we purchased a hydrogen fuel tank and a hydrogen fuel cell in order to power the car.”

One group will also develop a foldable quadracopter­—a helicopter propelled with four rotors—that will record aerial video.

“The primary task we have is building a strong, foldable frame,” Erik Elbieh, SEAS '15 and one of the students on the quadracopter team. “Once we get that component done, the motors and electronics themselves cost a fair amount, so that's where a good part of the funding will also go.”

Elbieh hopes that the project will encourage more research at SEAS. 

“One of the overarching goals that our project has is to expand the exploration into mobile quadracopter platform, which is a big industry on the rise today,” Elbieh said. “We're hoping over some period of time, Columbia may be able to get a more advanced platform and perform research in that area.”

Rana Hilal contributed reporting.  |  @ezactron

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