UL students win Analog Devices & Würth Elektronik Award at the First International European University Design Contest

Team Eppendorf, a team comprising four UL students, namely Jasmine Hales (Year 3, BSc in Product Design and Technology, Ffion Lewis (Year 4, BE in Electronic and Computer Engineering), Aaron Moloney (Year 4, BE in Electronic and Computer Engineering), and Boonrasri Seeleang (Postgraduate Masters with Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, via the ERASMUS MUNDUS LEADERS International Exchange Programme). The team was jointly mentored by two Members of Faculty from the Electronic and Computer Engineering Department, namely Dr Ian Grout and Professor Elfed Lewis.

The students shown in the picture below are Jasmine (on the left) and Ffion (on the right) during their final presentation and award ceremony in Munich. Aaron could not travel due to exam commitments at UL and Boonrasri had recently returned back to Thailand.

Analog Devices (ADI) are specialist in design and manufacture of electronic circuits and Würth Elektronik (WE), manufacturers of discrete electronic components, The project was selected as the UL entry in December which meant it proceeded to compete against five other teams from countries including Spain and Germany. This meant that the team met regularly (At least once a week) between January and the end of April This year. First prize was awarded to three projects in the First European University Design Contest launched for engineering students. Out of the three, one is from the University of Limerick. The subject of their project, called Penthex is pictured on the left below and involved creating a working electronically controlled precision oven for stabilization and/or accurate control of the temperature of micro- and milli- liter volume samples contained in Eppendorf tubes. Eppendorf tubes are used widely in Biochemistry labs e.g. for DNA forensic testing. A photograph of the team is included on the right below.

The oven (Penthex) is capable of stabilizing the temperature of the liquid sample contained within the Eppendorf tubes to within 0.1 oC or better. They have achieved this using new generation Micro-Peltier coolers (electronic heat pumps) coupled with standard electronic components and a powerful Analog Devices microcontroller system. The system is initially developed for controlling the temperature of biological samples which are being tested using miniature Optical Fibre Sensors for the Optical Fibre Sensors Research Centre at UL (www.ofsrc.ul.ie). However, the team are confident it will find wide ranging applications in Industry and University based Biology and Biochemical research laboratories. A YouTube video made by the students for the competition can be downloaded from https://youtu.be/Y4xgmBSnxQ0.

Javier Calpe of Analog Devices commented “This team has developed a functional system for temperature control for the characterization of liquids in medical and biomedical environments. It is a very expensive system and this development would allow it to be used by more university research groups”.

Encouraging proactivity

The selection of the three winners was by a jury made up of three very senior engineers from Würth Elektronik and another three chosen from the Analog Devices centers in the United States and Ireland. The six experts have not had any relationship with the mentoring of the projects and evaluated them according to the criteria of innovation, creativity and originality, applicability, use of ADI and WE materials, social media interaction, and interdisciplinary team.

“The objectives of this challenge have been three,” Javier Calpe has said. “We want to encourage the participation of students in proactive activities that complement their training; we seek to collaborate with universities by providing topics and relevant materials for final projects of degree and master; and also, we make our companies better known among university students as possible new members to the teams of Analog Devices and Würth Elektronik”.

The awards ceremony took place on Friday April 4th in Munich (Germany), a city where the two multinationals have their own headquarters. Once the acknowledgments have been delivered, “the students will decide how they want to continue developing their project and if they want both Würth Elektronik and us to support them as accelerators. The intellectual property of the three prototypes belongs to the university groups”, the head of Analog Devices in Spain has explained.