Among those who represented their work as part of the Tagliatela College of Engineering Capstone Design Expo were two Class of 2022 computer science graduates who will launch their careers as software engineers at Sikorsky and Travelers Insurance.
June 8, 2022
As part of their senior capstone project, Benjamin Greenfield ’22 and his teammates developed an intelligent parking system to reduce the time Chargers spend looking for a parking space at the University. SmartPark would determine parking availability in real time, reduce carbon emissions, and predict future parking availability.
A recent computer science graduate, Greenfield and his teammates had the opportunity to share their project with the University community as part of the Tagliatela College of Engineering Capstone Design Expo at the end of the spring semester. The annual expo enables students such as Greenfield to showcase their capstone projects, providing a culminating experience for all TCoE students.
“It was important that the University community saw our project, as we made SmartPark with the intention of making day-to-day life easier on campus,” said Greenfield, who will begin his career as a software engineer at Travelers Insurance in Hartford. “I hope they learned how enthusiastic we are when we are able to show how we used the skills we have cultivated over the past four years.”
‘Hard work, dedication, and potential of the students’
As part of the expo, more than 30 teams presented their design projects in all cybersecurity, computer science, engineering disciplines, including mechanical, civil, and chemical engineering. Students created posters, and, in many cases, prototypes and models to showcase their work to an audience that included students, faculty, staff, and industry representatives.
“These projects play an important role in preparing our students to work in their respective professions,” said Ronald Harichandran, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, dean of the TCoE and vice provost for research. “More and more companies sponsor projects and pose problems that are of relevance and interest to them. In such projects, students work closely with industry advisors in evaluating design options, selecting the optimal solution, and building or designing the final prototype or process.”
Coordinated to adopt best practices, the projects also presented concepts such as economic analysis, project management, and real-world design constraints. Many projects are multidisciplinary, fostering collaboration and communication as students work over the course of two semesters to arrive at solutions to complex problems. This year’s projects included a stove flame detection, alert, and shut-off system; a rehabilitation of a local dam; and a rail inspection carriage redesign.
“The projects introduced at the expo were prime examples of the hard work, dedication, and potential of the students at the University,” said Benjamin Placzek ’22, a recent computer science graduate and Greenfield’s teammate. “I enjoyed walking around and learning about the impressive projects inside and outside of my field.”
‘Enhancing the efficiency of our parking program’
Placzek and his teammates also presented SmartPark as part of the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges: Northeastern Region (CCSCNE) conference, where they competed against more than 30 teams from other universities in capturing the best poster award. They’ve also worked with their adviser and several graduate student mentors to submit a research paper to the Conference on Sustainable Urban Mobility. He says the entire experience has been invaluable.
“I enjoyed receiving feedback from distinguished professionals in the field and our professors about our solution to parking on campus,” said Placzek, who has accepted a full-time position as a software engineer in support of ground test operations at Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company. “We hope our project will inspire others to research innovative solutions to everyday problems and expand our understanding of artificial intelligence.”
Placzek and his teammates are continuing to work on SmartPark, which uses the University’s security cameras to scan parking lots and features a security dashboard for University police. They have met several times with Kevin Laroche, director of public safety information systems for the University, who provided access to several security cameras and enabled them to test the system without impacting security.
“I quickly discovered they had a well-thought-out plan,” said Laroche. “The team was excellent at communicating their needs and questions. I had a strong sense that these students were extremely talented. I am very interested in SmartPark’s ability to count available spaces in parking lots. We are always looking to enhance our parking program, and I believe the SmartPark app has great potential to do so.”
Added Ronald Quagliani '93, '05 M.S., '14 M.S., associate vice president of public safety and administrative services, “I personally was impressed with their work, and I can see a use for this technology in enhancing the efficiency of our parking program on campus.”
‘The expo was a great event’
Greenfield says he and his teammates hope to eventually make their senior design project an LLC and to continue to develop it so that it could, eventually, become a business. He says the capstone project and the opportunity to showcase it at the expo have prepared him for what’s to come.
“I learned it is important to be able to describe your work in different levels of detail – for those who understand more complex computer science topics and for those who are less familiar with them,” he said. “The expo was a great event to be able to talk about all the hard work my team has done in a way that felt professional.”