First-year students demonstrate first-out-of-the-gate thinking during the Fall 2020 RAD Challenge

Rapid Assembly and Design Challenge poster

Every engineering student at NYU Tandon is introduced to the design process, CAD, project management, technical communications, and collaboration in General Engineering (EG) 1003, a required course with dozens of sessions and a veritable army of highly trained TAs from a variety of majors.

Even after earning their degrees, students often remember that introductory course as being among the most valuable — and fun — they have ever taken, and since 2017 one of the most exciting components has been the chance to participate in the annual Rapid Assembly and Design Challenge (RAD), inspired by the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges, which ask students to identify a problem that needs to be solved, develop a solution, and build a working prototype.

The Challenge got its start in 2017 when an ambitious first-year student came up with the idea of independently building a drone, and in response, a framework for running and grading independent projects was created. The following year it was scaled up so that multiple teams could participate, and this year more than 40 groups took part.

Several of them presented their projects at the Fall 2020 RAD virtual showcase, vying for cash prizes and hoping to replicate the success of Pepper Pet, a holographic animal companion that later made it to the finals of Tandon’s hotly contested InnoVention Competition — a rarity for a team comprised of first-year students.

This year’s presenters included:

  • Hotel Service Robot (created by Junyang Tang, Guanru Chen, Chenyue Shen, and Zhiheng Li), an autonomous concierge/bellman/cleaner aimed at aiding the tourist industry in the age of a pandemic. 
  • TouchView (created by Stamati Angelides, Amelie Galvez, Edrick Hong, Daniel Plaza), a platform employing LiDAR technology to assist the blind by displaying objects in a room through tactile mapping
  • Plantveyor (created by Carter Garcia, Vito Gamberini, and Zoe Leung), an affordable, tech-enabled way for home gardeners to achieve optimal growing conditions for their plants. 
  • Hot Pod (created by Courtney Chan and Sage Cronen-Townsend), a small heater powered by an ordinary battery, designed with the homeless in mind but useful to all.
  • Bird.E (created by Juan Diego Becerra, Alex Chen, and Naren Srinivasan), a virtual putting “coach” for golfers that uses sensors to assess technique and make recommendations for improvement. 
  • Stringless Violin (created by Alan Hentrich, Nanami Takamatsu, and Edward Liang), a protype instrument much more affordable and less fragile than a traditional violin, making it ideal for novice players.
  • Sound Sense Wave (created by Nuzhat Bhuiyan, Izabella Orozco, Bridget Kegelman, Sachin Iyer), a virtual reality experience that mimics synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which information meant to stimulate one sense stimulates others — leading to the ability to “see” music, for example, or “hear” color.

Industry Assistant Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering Jack Bringardner, who also serves as the Assistant Dean for Academic and Curricular Affairs and the Director of Tandon’s Vertically Integrated Projects initiative, believes that participating in the RAD Challenge can be a seminal experience for Tandon students. “This year’s impressive projects provide just a preview of what our students will accomplish during their time here. Even though they are first-year students, they already embody the engineering mindset of identifying problems and collaborating to solve them,” said Bringardner.

This year’s RAD Challenge was coordinated by Tatyana Graesser, Frank Zheng, Minh Diep, and Karenna Rodriguez.