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VCU Engineering Friends and Donors Get Early View of Tomorrow’s Technologies

Richmond, VA (May 10, 2017) - On the eve of the VCU School of Engineering's Capstone Design Expo, the school’s friends and benefactors got a sneak peek at the student-created innovative projects that would dazzle hundreds of visitors the next day. Held April 27 on the floor of VCU’s iconic Stuart Siegel Center, the preview showcased more than 80 inventions including a drone-mounted face recognition system, an interface that uses eye movements to move a wheelchair and a low-cost device that distinguishes between Parkinson's disease and essential tremor.

Approximately 150 members of the school’s Dean’s Society, Foundation Board and Alumni Board attended the donor-appreciation event, which gave the industry-heavy guest list a chance to interact with and recruit VCU engineers.

“I’ve hired at least one graduate from each graduating class,” said Temple Ballard, an executive with Suez North America Treatment Solutions who is a Dean’s Society and Foundation Board member. “What I look forward to most is the creativity, and the real-world, realistic applications.” Dean’s Society member Arthur Wayne Hudgins, an engineer with Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc., who regularly sponsors Capstone Design projects, agreed. “These students develop great products and create original solutions,” he said. “We love to hire them.” Erik Ray, business development director with Capstone sponsor WorldView Solutions, explained that recruiting engineering talent from out of state is expensive and said his mission was to “keep these graduates here, in Richmond.”

The prototypes on display reflected a year’s work by teams of senior engineering students tasked with developing viable solutions to real problems forwarded by experts from VCU Health System, nonprofits and industry. This year’s projects also featured multi-year, multi-level Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) as well as 11 collaborations between engineering and business students working to build startup companies around the student designs. In her address to the guests and students, Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Engineering, called the Capstone Design experience a “rite of passage” that goes far beyond meeting an academic requirement. “This is a training capstone experience where students discover how to solve real problems for — and with — people different from themselves,” she said.