Hampton Engineering Students Raise Standard of Excellence in Innovation Winning 2nd Annual AMIE Design Challenge

Last year a team of seven Hampton University School of Engineering and Technology students stole the show at the inaugural Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering (AMIE) design competition with their app, Colorsphere, and with their poise, professionalism, and ingenuity. One year later on the evening of February 8, 2019 a new group of Hampton University students walked into the Exhibit Hall at the 33rd Annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) conference as the defending champions. Upon entering the ballroom a coach for the team was asked by a representative from one of the many corporate sponsors of the competition if he thought the team could win again this year. Taking one look at the students claiming their seats without hesitation at the table in the front of the ballroom, which every other team had shied away from, he responded, “Look at them. Look at the focus in their eyes. They’re ready.” And ready they were indeed.

The 2nd Annual AMIE Design Challenge was sponsored and judged by Corning Incorporated, IBM Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, NetApp, Abbott Laboratories, The Boeing Company, Boston Scientific Corporation, The MITRE Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, The Raytheon Company and the National Security Agency.

For three weeks prior to the competition, the Hampton University design team worked diligently alongside university faculty, the Hampton University Police Department, and corporate mentors from Lockheed Martin to perfect their design. In addition the students attended IBM training and earned the IBM Design Thinking Practitioner badge.

The team was challenged to design an innovative system to transform the quality of life of people through public safety. They created SafeSpace to help solve their problem statement: How might we increase protection for potential victims of Gun Violence?  Safespace, an automated barricade that slides over classroom doors to protect students and teachers in active shooter situations, provides live video feed of the classrooms to law enforcement, and functions as a whiteboard when not in use. This door is equip with a camera to allow first responders to have an idea of what is going on in the classroom and designed to resemble a moveable whiteboard to decrease the psychological distress a bulletproof door might cause in young children.

Drawing data from actual active shooter situations, the students demonstrated the thoroughness of their research on the demand for and feasibility of their product, which was exemplified in the financial operational model completed by the team. “The attention to detail put into this model allowed the students to calculate the cost of producing and installing their door in schools at any scale. This information was invaluable and critical for determining the viability of the design,” said Dr. Joyce T. Shirazi, Dean of the Hampton University School of Engineering and Technology.

The team was comprised of freshmen Samara White and Janelle Mabrey, sophomores Chauncey Upsher, Kris Smalls and Jada Palmer, juniors Jai Huntley and Alexander Edmonson, and senior Susan Okrah. The team was advised by Dr. Demetrius Geddis, Assistant Dean and Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Dr. Brian Aufderheide, Chair of the Chemical Engineering Department. The team was coached by sophomore Larry Luster, a member of the design team that won the previous AMIE design challenge.

They competed against ten Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) engineering teams tackling problems in Healthcare, Public Safety and Transportation. Those teams were Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Morgan State University, NC A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University, Tuskegee University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, University of the District of Columbia and Virginia State University. The solutions were judged on desirability, feasibility, viability and presentation.

Ultimately, the Hampton University design team placed first in the 2nd Annual AMIE Design Challenge, securing HU’s title as the only winner of the competition to date. Each student participant was awarded a monetary prize and the School of Engineering and Technology received funds for its retention programs. The 2019 Design Challenge champions will present their project at the annual AMIE conference to be held at Hampton University in the fall.

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