Hard work is almost over for ECE capstone team that designed smart insole
Calendar Icon Apr 16, 2018 Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel RSS
As the spring semester nears its end, so does the work on many College of Engineering senior design capstone projects.
With pressure to meet deadlines ramping up and the value of sleep becoming a premium, a team of electrical and computer engineering students on Scott Campus is putting the finishing touches on their smart insole.
The product, which is being developed to help in the research of Kota Takahashi, assistant professor of biomechanics at the University of Nebraska Omaha, would be inserted into a shoe to monitor and record foot temperature of patients with diabetes in hopes of preventing foot ulcers.
Zachary Meade, the team’s resources manager, said the various aspects of the work process have recently converged to create some stress as the deadline approaches. Foremost among them, Meade said, was the work Jacob Curtis – the team’s hardware engineering – had in creating the PCB and fitting 72 components on a half-inch square board.
“He did that in a week, which is impressive, but it’s stressful not just for Jacob but for all of us,” Meade said. “We ordered the board from China and if it doesn’t work we have to go back and reorder it. That could set us back two to three weeks, and we don’t have two to three weeks.”
In mid-March, the team – which also includes Mason Schleu (software engineer) and Kurt Pavlik (systems engineer) – had yet to test the device because it had just finished making the PCB.
“We just got this out of the oven yesterday, a toaster oven,” Schleu said.
“It’s definitely crunch time, but we’ve made progress,” Curtis said. “We just have to finish executing what we’ve built toward.”
What the smart insole team had left to complete was testing the product. With the device being inserted into a shoe, the team needed to analyze the effect it might have on a patient’s gait and then be tweaked to ensure the stride length wouldn’t change more than five percent from a stride without the insole.
“We have the design down so the user can’t feel the sensors, because they’re hard, like little pebbles in the shoe,” Pavlik said.
Initial testing showed that one of the sensors embedded in the insole had failed, and the team had trouble creating a modular design for the cable that connects the sensors on the insole to a system that sits on top of the shoe.
After a few creative solutions to those issues and gait testing showed the device would perform as expected, the final step is completing the team’s report – “it’s probably going to be over 100 pages long,” Meade said – and preparing for the April 20 final presentation.
Somehow, they hope, it will be possible to get some rest after working six or seven hours most nights as the project deadline nears.
Still, the project taught a few valuable lessons for the team members to carry into their engineering futures.
“I’ve learned how to function on a team that’s depending on you to do certain things, where your teammates are counting on you to get your part of the project done,” Curtis said. “This has been valuable in teaching me how to do that and how to communicate with people about technical things, how to work toward those deadlines and how to talk about it.”