IDEAS Group Project

This group project took place during the spring semester of 2016 as an extra credit assignment for EGN 3310: Engineering Analysis – Statics course. Starting in the first few weeks of class, our professor asked us to start thinking of interesting static structures that we would like to analyze in order to understand more about how the structure preforms. When we came up with our idea, we would pitch the idea to him and tell him how we would analyze the structure. Then, at the end of the semester, all of the students would present their findings at the IDEAS (Interdisciplinary Display For Engineering Analysis‐Statics) showcase in the UCF Engineering Building Atrium. The project had some initial specifications listed below.


  1. Groups of max 4 students.
  2. Students must prepare a physical model related to some of the suggested cases.  This model must be verified by hand calculations.
  3. Students will prepare a poster containing all the information regarding their project.
  4. Students will prepare a paper (around 5 pages).
  5. Students will present their project to their peers, professors, and judges.
  6. Groups will work on developing the main idea for the project and this must be approved in person.

Initial Setup:

When my group started brainstorming, we knew we wanted to pick a structure that had significant applications to our everyday lives and that helped us gain a better understanding of what we were learning in the course. In our statics course, we spent a significant amount of time talking about support structures. We also knew that the showcase was going to take place in the UCF Engineering Building Atrium. Those three thoughts led us to choose the uniquely designed staircase that sits inside the atrium of the UCF engineering building as our structure to analyze. That way when we were presenting our project we could simply point to the real world structure that we modelled right from our booth!

In our proposal to our professor, we said that we wanted to complete an analysis on why support structures were used and what kind of value they brought to the design of the staircase. After approval from our professor, we got to work. We decided to create two different models of the staircase. One model would be an exact replica of the staircase and one model would be a replica of the staircase without support members. Both would be 1:38 scaled models of the staircase. We then created those models out of balsa wood and in SolidWorks.

We wanted to test how much weight the models could hold, then use that data to give an accurate representation of how much weight the actual staircase could hold with and without support members. To test the balsa wood model we used UCF’s Hydraulic compressor and to test the CAD model we used the simulation tools inside SolidWorks.

SolidWorks Simulation:

We used the SolidWorks simulation tools to predict the load that would cause buckling to occur in our structure and the location of the structure where that buckling would occur. In the model without supports, the buckling occurred at the very top of the structure with a 284 N load.  The visual is below.


In the model with supports, the buckling occurred at one of the supports on the first floor of the structure. The model was able to withstand an 892N load. The top view of the model can be seen below.


Balsa Wood Hydraulic Testing:

The two balsa wood models we created were tested in UCF’s Hydraulic Compressor. The compressor slowly compressed our models while applying more and more force to the structures. Then, a sensor sensed when the structure started to buckle and stopped the compression before anything snapped or broke. The data that was collected from the compressor can be seen below.


Our unsupported model withstood a 235.75 N load and our supported model buckled at a 765N load.

Analyzing and Applying the Results:

The SolidWorks simulation calculated a 31.8% increase to the maximum bearable load when the supports members were applied. The hydraulic compressor calculated a 30.8% increase in the maximum load when the supports members were applied to the balsa wood model. That means there was only a 1% difference between our theoretical model and our real-life model!

With these fantastic results, we could then confidently use our data to calculate what kind of forces the UCF Engineering Building Staircase could hold with and without support members. We used A36 Steel as our assumed metal that the staircase was made out of. We then used hand calculations to calculate that the Engineering Building Staircase could withstand a 348840N load. We then used our results to show that without supports, the structure could only support a 107502 N load.


All of these findings go on to prove how important it is to add supports to staircases and really any structure that needs to hold significant loads. When designing stairs, supports will help increase the maximum weight capacity of the structure by around 30% and do this in a way that is very efficient and does not require a significant amount of material. This will help save money and increase the safety of the stairs!

Our project paper can be seen here: link




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UCF Orlando Strong 5k

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On June 12th, 2016 tragedy struck the Orlando community when a gunman opened fired at a nightclub in downtown Orlando.  This was a very tragic day for our community. The whole city of Orlando was in shock that something like this could happen so close to home, but there was light in all of the darkness.

I have never seen a community of people come together so quickly to show their support for the victims of the shooting. A couple of days after the event we were talking in our ZBT executive board group chat and my friend and I felt the urge to help and give our support to the community as well. We knew we wanted to help raise money for the victims and show our respect for those that were lost.  Being in a fraternity gave us the ability to host events with UCF and gather people together in a way that most people were unable too. So, we felt called to put on an event to help.

We started brainstorming and quickly decided that the best event that we could put on was a 5K and we knew that we wanted to work with UCF to try to bring the whole community of Orlando together for the event. We also knew that we had to put this event on as quickly as possible. So, we pitched the idea to all of the members in my fraternities chapter to ask if they would be willing to help make this event happen. The answer was overwhelmingly YES.

So, we scheduled a meeting with UCF faculty and pitched them on our idea. I am very thankful that they gave us their full support. In that meeting, we also decided that the event was going to take place in 3 weeks!

My friend and I were both full-time students taking summer classes at the time, so we knew this was going to be a very busy 3 weeks and we really did not know how we would do it. It did not matter though because we felt called to help and nothing was going to stop us.

Initial Planning:

As soon as we had the date set and a green light from UCF, we went all in. We launched a website and a Facebook page, formed a committee of people that would help us make everything happen, planned daily meetings, and continued to coordinate with UCF faculty and our Greek Council. I can not even begin to describe how much work needed to go into this event. I will give you an idea of just a few of the important action items we had to make happen.

Event Checklist:

  • Decide on where the event would take place on campus and the path for the 5k
  • Set up the payment system for the 5k online registration
  • Make sure the money went to proper accounts so it could be donated correctly
  • Acquire sponsors for the event
  • Get speakers who would be willing to speak at the event
  • Find a DJ and the proper sound equipment
  • Make sure everything meets UCF regulations
  • Market the event to UCF students and Orlando residents
  • Contact businesses, radio stations, and news stations
  • Design graphics, T-shirts, banners, flyers, etc.
  • Decide on fundraisers that would take place at the event
  • Create the schedule for the day of the event
  • And so much more…

It was safe to say that we had our work cut out for us. It didn’t look like we were going to be able to get it all done, but then something crazy started happening. Literally everyone we talked to wanted to help and give their support to the event. UCF’s Greek Council showed a ton of support, so we brought them on as co-sponsors. Left and right people started volunteering to help. Overnight this event went from looking like it was never going to happen to something way more than we could have ever imagined.

To make a long story short. Thanks to all of the members of Zeta Beta Tau, UCF’s Greek Council, UCF Faculty, and the organizations at UCF we were able to get everything done and ready for an amazing event day.

The Event:

We started setting up early in the morning on what we thought was going to be a beautiful day. Then, 10 minutes before we started sign-ins the Florida weather came in full force and it started pouring. We had all of our tables and everything set up outside under no cover and people were starting to show up. So, in 10 minutes I had to reorganize the entire layout of our event to make sure that all of the people coming to sign in would be able to stay dry.  Thankfully, we were able to make this happen. After a little, the sun came back out and from then on the event was perfect. We even had a couple celebrities and the local news show up!

The video at the top of this post will give you an idea of what the day was like!

End Result:

All in all this event turned out better than anything my friend and I could have ever hoped for. We had an attendance of well over 1,000 people and we raised over $10,000 dollars! Everyone at the event said that they had a great time and that we did a great job as making sure we remembered those that were lost. One of the members of the UCF Greek council knew the owner of the nightclub. So, we were able to talk to the owner to find out where the money could be most usefully donated. Even though Disney and other companies had donated millions of dollars, the employees of the nightclub were out on their own with no job and all of the psychological hurdles to overcome. So, the money we raised was given to the owner so she could help those employees get back on their feet.

This event showed me how a simple idea can turn into something that has massive positive impacts on the world. I hope to always remember that as I go through my daily life and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to help others again.


Naval Orange Race

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Similar to the Mars Rover Competition, the Naval Orange Race took place at the end of my freshman spring semester in my Intro to Engineering II class. This project was designed to be more challenging than the Mars rover competition since everyone in the class now had experience completing a group project. The process of creating the boat was filled with lots of pivot points and setbacks, but in the end, our group overcame the challenges and accomplished our goals!

 Project Objective:

In groups of 4 or 5, design a boat that can transport an orange from one side of the UCF Reflection Pond to the other.


The video on the top of this post and the graphic below will give you an idea of what the course looked like on competition day.


We started in the staging area and had to go around the pond to the finish area. The orange dotted line represented a barrier that floated in the water and wrapped around the fountain in the center of the pond.

If you have not seen it, this is what the UCF Reflection Pond looks like in person:

Image result for ucf reflection pond

As you can see from the video at the top of this post, the fountain was on during the race, which was the hardest obstacle to overcome in the course.

Competition Specifications and Rules:

  • You can use electronic devices, within a certain voltage
  • You can not use flammable, combustible, pressurized, or other dangerous materials
  • The budget must not exceed $80 (including tax)
  • The vessel must not exceed 1m x 1m x 1m
  • You have 5 minutes to make it to the finish line
  • All vessels must be self-guided and self-propelled
  • Absolutely no remote controls and no string or line-based guidance systems are allowed.
  • The vessel must transport an orange, while keeping it dry, from one side of the pond to the other
  • The orange must be grabbed by a member of the team who is standing in the finish zone without touching the water or the team is disqualified

Project Summary:

For this project, my group built our design around what we could get our hands on for the best price. Our goal was to make the boat go as fast as possible, so that way we would have a good chance at placing in the final round of the competition. We knew that we would need to have a boat propeller in the water to do this, so we went to a hobby shop to purchase a drive shaft, a propeller, and a motor. While we were there, the guy in the shop was nice enough give us a free front end of an RC airplane. Which means we got an extra motor and plane propeller for free!

Now that we had our propulsion mechanisms, we had to figure out how to power those systems simultaneously and keep them from getting wet. This was the biggest challenge for us in the entire project. When I was younger I enjoyed playing around with electric circuits, so I took up the challenge of figuring out how to wire the boat. We went out and bought some soldering gear and wired the two motors into a parallel circuit, with a 9V battery power source. Trying to use a 9V battery was our first mistake.

Our thought process at the time was that we didn’t need the battery to last very long, but we needed a higher voltage in order to go fast. When we attached the battery, we were super excited because both motors started spinning incredibly fast! We immediately ran down to the reflection pond to test our boat. We put it in the water, expecting to speed off away from us! And….

It didn’t even move…

Our battery was so small that as soon as the boat propeller encountered the water there was not enough current which could be drawn from the battery to produce enough torque to power the boat propeller through the resistance of the water.

You see, in simple terms motors get their torque from the amperage draw of the battery and their speed (or rpm) from the voltage applied to them.  So, what we had was a boat capable of going lightning fast, but a battery that could not give us enough power to push the boat through the water.

Back to the drawing board.

When I was younger I experimented a lot with remote control planes, boats, and cars. So, I immediately thought that we could use a LiPo RC battery that had the right voltage and were specifically designed for the motors we had. There was just one problem. PRICE! LiPo batteries were way out of our price range if we were going to stay under budget. If we could have used one of these batteries, we would have easily won the competition.

Back to the drawing board, again.

So, we went out and bought a Duracell 6V Lantern battery (seen below). I hooked it up and the motors spun at about 10% of the speed they were capable of. However, when we placed the boat in the water there was no loss of speed as compared to out of the water, unlike the 9V battery. We were on to something.

Image result for duracell 6v lantern battery

Long story short, we ended up having to buy 4 very large and bulky 6V lantern batteries. They were massively oversized for what we needed and almost sunk the boat, but at $7.50 each, they were the only batteries we could afford and still get the job done.

I ended up re-wiring the entire boat to have the two motors hooked up independently. Each battery was wired in series with one other battery to give us 12 volts per motor and enough current to push the boat through a hurricane haha. This gave us the fastest configuration possible while also staying under budget. I think our only other option would have been to use 16 9V batteries, but wiring those together in a way that did not blow the motors would have been a nightmare and we just simply did not have the time.

After all of this, we still had to figure out how to make the boat go around the pond successfully! We ended up using a bent closet hanger (seen in the video) to help our boat hit the wall on the edge of the pond and then begin to ride the wall to the finish line. We also adjusted the angle that the airplane propeller faced on the front of the boat to help with this.

After all of our hard work and late nights, we were finally ready for race day. When the day came we were given slot number 2. This was known by everyone as the worst slot that you could start in. We started directly in front of where the fountain water came crashing down on top of boats. It didn’t matter to us though! While 85% of the teams didn’t make it further than 10 feet, our boat successfully navigated around the pond! Our boat was also able to make it around the pond very quickly. This put us in the final round of the competition where we ended up placing in the top ten out of 215 teams!

Mars Rover Competition

Every fall semester the incoming freshman engineering students at UCF are challenged to compete against each other to see who can build the best “Mars Rover.” The competition takes place in the first class that all mechanical engineering students must enrol in at UCF – Intro to Engineering I.

The class has two parts, a lecture and a lab. In the lectures, we learned about all of the different engineering majors at UCF and what it was going to be like to study and work in the engineering field. This was incredibly helpful to me because when I first came to college I was worried that I might not have chosen the right major. However, sitting through the class lectures helped me solidify my decision to become a mechanical engineer. The lab for the class was also a very rewarding experience. In the lab, we learned how to build and program these little robots called “Bo Bots.” This was a great introduction to the engineering field, especially since robots are becoming more and more prevalent in our everyday lives. Finally, in the last few weeks of the class, we formed groups and started to build our Rovers!

Competition Objective:

Design a mechanically-powered vehicle to carry as much weight as possible for as far of a distance as possible.

Competition Specifications and Constraints:

  • Teams of 4 or 5 members each
  • Budget limit of $80
  • No electronics
  • No dangerous substances
  • Max dimensions: 2’ x 2’ 3’

1st Place Grand Prize:

A 4 year book scholarship!


When Astronauts are on the Moon or Mars, they need a way to transport their heavy gear over rough terrain. So, our instructor created this competition to see what kind of ideas we could come up with to do something very similar!

Project Summary:

To start the project our group worked together to come up with a few initial ideas. One idea our group had was to attach the weights we were going to carry to a rope. The weights would then be lifted up and the rope would be placed over a pulley. The other side of the rope would then be wound around a wheel on the rover. From this configuration, the potential energy stored in the weights would pull the string and therefore turn the wheel. However, we ended up going with a similar idea that instead used strong rubber bungee cords wrapped around a main wheel. The tension in the bungee cables is what would move our vehicle and transport our weights.

After we decided on our final design we created a CAD model  (or something like one haha) to layout the dimensions of our Rover.

Here is our initial CAD model:

Mars Rover Auto Cad - Screenshot

Seeing this again always makes me laugh a little because we were struggling to create a CAD model back then. Now, I could create a model much better than this in a heartbeat!

We then headed to Home Depot to get materials and construct our design! Here are some photos we took in our dorm the night before the race:

Mars Rover 1Mars Rover 2Mars Rover 3Mars Rover 4

The pictures above don’t show the bungee cords, but they hooked around the white PVC pole at the top. They also connected to a screw on the big wheel in the center of the cart. We would wind up the wheel by moving the cart backwards, just like the old Hot Wheels or McDonald’s car toys. This caused the bungee cords to tighten around the axle. Once we let go of the rover, it would race forward. So, we also used a brake to hold the wheel in place until it was time for us to launch.

On race day we found that there was so much tension in our bungee cords that the nails which held the supports to the PVC pipe were about to rip out. After taking it easy on our first run, we nailed some extra wood to our supports and added an inordinate amount of duct tape to everything. This allowed us to wind our wheel up twice as much as our initial design, which gave us about an extra ten feet added onto our final distance.

These last minute additions got us into the final round of the competition, where we ended up getting 3rd place out of about 230 teams!

If you would like to see the final paper, then go ahead and click here.


This project was incredibly helpful at getting me ready for my future career. My biggest take away was learning how to effectively communicate, compromise, and work with members of a group to achieve our goals. The teams that had the most success and that made it to the final round of the competition, all had noticeable teamwork skills. I think teamwork, even though it sounds cliché, is so incredibly important with any group project. Our team did well because we all agreed to set the bar high from the beginning, we held each other accountable, and we helped each other out. Our teamwork and communication is what allowed us to hear everyone’s ideas, iterate our designs, construct a Rover within the budget constraints, and place top 3 in the competition.