A glimpse of the 2019 Engineering Design Showcase

uc davis engineering design showcase 2019 robo bees
The Robobees team, one of over 180 teams showcasing their multi-quarter engineering projects at Engineering Design Showcase 2019. Photo courtesy of Kevin Mclaughlin.

By Rachel Steere and Noah Pflueger-Peters

The College of Engineering will host over 180 student teams along with various industry judges at this year’s Engineering Design Showcase on Thursday, June 6 from 1-4 p.m. at the UC Davis ARC Pavilion.

The Engineering Design Showcase is an opportunity for senior design teams and engineering clubs to share their efforts with industry partners and the campus community. It brings together project teams from all eight departments to exhibit the quality of a UC Davis engineering degree. These students have put in hours of drafting, modeling, prototyping, testing and analysis to complete a product, device, process or software system—on top of an already rigorous curriculum.

​Each student team will pitch their projects to at least three different industry and alumni evaluators, who provide feedback on elements such as the team’s ability to identify, formulate and solve an engineering problem, communication, teamwork and adherence to current engineering standards and techniques. This feedback is central to the showcase.

The College graciously acknowledges the companies, corporations and individuals who have generously supported this event, particularly the 2019 event sponsors: Chevron, Sandia National Laboratories and the UC Davis Internship and Career Center.

Resources for industry guests.

A look at some of this year’s project teams:


A team of mechanical engineering students chose to develop a swarm of drone-based pollinators that are able to effectively and efficiently pollinate an agricultural field without human intervention. To create the robobee, they connected a cylinder to a drone, filled the cylinder with a pollen mixture and utilized the propellers to evenly distribute the pollen mixture over the crops. The team wanted to keep the design simple, lightweight and affordable. The ultimate goal was to create the concept of a drone swarm that could work together to get a large job done quickly. The device is 3D printable, easy to mass produce and able to communicate with other robobees.

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A robobee prototype. Photo: Rachel Steere/UC Davis.
A Sediment-Based Microbial Fuel Cell for Sustainable Energy Production

This team of biological systems engineering students was interested in creating a new source of renewable energy from microbial fuel cells. Not a lot of research has been done on microbial fuel cells, so they wanted to research and design an optimal structure that uses solid waste to generate electricity. They used affordable materials that are accessible to small farms, such as wood and chicken wire, to create a self-sustaining structure that holds the organic waste. Though the main purpose of the project was to create a source of energy for the UC Davis Student Farm to power the devices and projects created by the Engineering 3 students, the team also wanted to create a source of renewable energy for all small farms with remote systems.

uc davis engineering design showcase 2019 microbial fuel cell
The team’s microbial fuel cell prototype. Photo courtesy of Lucy Knowles.
Dance Defender

Dance Defender is a hybrid between the classic video games Space Invaders and Dance Dance Revolution. Players step on one of eight arrow pads that correspond with incoming alien ships on a monitor in front of them to destroy the ships and score points. Each directional pad has a Texas Instruments microcontroller that senses changes in pressure and converts that into digital signals for a central Arduino master board, which sends commands to a MATLAB-based game interface. The project is the culmination of three quarters’ work in the EE-Emerge, a program for junior electrical engineering and computer engineering majors to apply their technical knowledge to make interactive exhibits for the general public.

uc davis engineering design showcase 2019 dance defender video game
The Dance Defender team and their dance pad. Photos courtesy of Abby Lee.
Ergo-Sit: A Wearable Chair for Surgeons

Due to operating room procedures at the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Small Animal Hospital, surgeons find themselves on their feet constantly and experience a lot of lower-body pain. The Ergo-Sit, a portable wearable chair designed by a team of mechanical engineering majors, gives surgeons the opportunity to rest their legs. Unlike market wearable chairs, the chair takes all the load off of the user using a tripod-like system instead of redistributing it to another part of their body. The team sees the design eventually being used in any work environment where people are always on their feet, such as factory lines or the service industry.

uc davis engnieering deisgn showcase 2019 wearable chair surgeons
The Ergo-Sit team and a 3D rendering of their design. Photos courtesy of Alexandria Rodriguez.
Team Buffies: Bicycle-Powered Water Pump

In the dry seasons, irrigating crops can be a problem for small-scale farmers in Africa, so Team Buffies has designed a bicycle-powered centrifugal water pump to help. The team builds upon the design laid out in the M.S. thesis “The Water Buffalo,” but better streamlines the pump and uses 3D-printed parts to make the device lightweight and portable. The pump attaches to the bike’s drivetrain system via the chain, and as the user pedals, the pump pulls water in from a tube and redistributes it over crops. The design is a prototype for a final product, which the team hopes to eventually mass produce to help farmers around the world.

uc davis engineering design showcase 2019 bicycle pump
“Team Buffies” built upon a previous design by making it more lightweight and portable. Photo: Noah Pflueger-Peters/UC Davis.