Student-created museum exhibits first of their kind for Senior Capstone Design Program


Julia Stackler

Two MechSE Senior Capstone Design teams celebrated the unveiling yesterday of their semester-long projects—two new interactive exhibits at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in Champaign, Illinois.

The astronomy-themed “Asteroid Mine” and “Orphy’s Escape to Space” are part of the museum’s new Busey Astronomy Kids Corner.

In MechSE’s Senior Capstone Design Program (ME 470), students work in teams for one semester under the supervision of faculty to tackle real design problems, with multiple constraints, typically from manufacturers and service industries. The exhibits were first-of-their-kind projects for MechSE, in which the two teams of five undergraduates were given full autonomy to conceive, design, and build the exhibits. They collaborated with two undergraduate graphic design students from the School of Art + Design at Illinois, and were assisted by staff and volunteers at the Orpheum as well as their faculty advisors, Professors Sameh Tawfick and Aimy Wissa.  

The projects were sponsored by Mid-America Advertising, Neff Power, Phillips 66, and Shape Master; Busey Bank is sponsor of the new astronomy room.

Orpheum Senior Design exhibits
Orpheum Senior Design exhibits
“We faced multiple challenges throughout the semester. The largest was having to build a finished product. Never in the MechSE curriculum were we asked to build a finished product that was to be delivered and ready for the user. It took many long nights and countless hours to construct the massive exhibit. I’m thankful to have had a team of guys that would strive for perfection and wanted to deliver the museum with a robust, innovative and engaging exhibit. The biggest reward was the look on the children’s faces,” said Ken Cooley, who was on the team that built the “Orphy’s Escape to Space” exhibit. “There is an aspect of this project that was both educational and humbling that our team learned early on. And that is simply that you are not always right. Your initial design probably won’t work and you should therefore be prepared and open-minded enough to receive correction and advice. Every aspect of our design went through multiple iterations and we sought outside help to get it built on schedule.”

The non-profit Orpheum engages and educates children through the exploration of the science and arts. In 2017 alone, the museum provided unique educational opportunities to more than 30,000 people in Champaign-Urbana and beyond through STEM programs, special events, interactive exhibits, and more.

“Probably one of the most significant aspects of this is that we were able to partner with the University of Illinois and collaborated with the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering to help sponsor two senior project teams. I think both of the teams did something that’s never really been done before, building exhibits like this for a museum, so we’re excited about what they have created,” said Douglas Brauer, executive director of the Orpheum. “This is a significant step for us as we go into the next 25 years of the museum’s future. This is just one of the first steps as we begin to develop the museum even more, add new exhibits, and continue with the science, technology, engineering, and math theme through everything,” said Douglas Brauer, Executive Director of the Orpheum.

The teams included:

“Asteroid Mine”
Neal Boyer, Harrison Greenwood, Jacob Lazzarotto, David Sias, and Angela Wiscons, with graphic design students Emmaline Fleener and Kristy Vuong.

“Orphy’s Escape to Space”
Joshua Brooks, Kenneth Cooley, Amal De Alwis, Eray Ergenc, and Vignesh Sarathy, with graphic design students Emmaline Fleener and Kristy Vuong.

See local coverage of the new exhibit space. >>