NJIT students take top awards at a national design contest

Two mechanical engineering students at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) spent a semester building a casting device that a paraplegic could use to cast a fishing line.

The students, John Kurdyla and Alejandro Perez, used switches, speed control, an electro-mechanical clutch and two 18-volt motors to build their casting device. All a disabled person need do to cast the line 30 feet is push a few buttons. And if he can't move his fingers, the buttons could be turned into a sip-and-puff technology.

"The elegance of John and Alejandro's casting device is its mechanical simplicity," said Harry Kountouras, a special lecturer of mechanical engineering at NJIT. "Paraplegics can't use their arms and legs but they can use their breath, and this device had switches that could connect to a sip-and-puff transducer. I think the device is so accurate and reliable that it could be marketed."

Kountouras isn't the only fan of Kurdyla and Perez's engineering skills. The two recently took first place in a National Design Contest sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The regional contest, held recently at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, was part of the society's annual Regional Student Conference.

It's the eighth time in the last 11 years that mechanical engineering students NJIT took first place in the national design contest, said Kountouras, who is the faculty adviser for the university's ASME student chapter. Another NJIT team took third place in the design contest and NJIT won other top awards during the conference. The first-place team -- Kurdyla, of Parsippany, and Perez, of Montclair -- won a trophy and $200. The two seniors also earned a trip to the ASME National Championship. The championship is part of the International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, to be held this November in Chicago. The team will compete against winners from 13 other ASME regions.

The third-place team included Eric Jakubik, of Bayonne, and Eric Shapiro, of Fair Lawn, both seniors, who won a plaque and a $100 prize.

For the fifth consecutive year, NJIT also won the prestigious Ingersoll-Rand Contest, for which students had to write an annual report documenting the professional activities of their ASME student chapter. The report had to include a list of meetings, seminars, guest speakers, class trips as well as publications and community service. NJIT scored a perfect 1,000 points in this contest. The team won a plaque, a $200 prize and earned a place in the Ingersoll-Rand National Inter-Regional Contest.

With more than 20 students present, NJIT also won the Most-In-Attendance Award as well the Kilometer Award, given to the school whose students travel the farthest to attend the conference.

The NJIT student chapter of ASME has been active at NCE for more than 75 years, making it the oldest on-campus professional society.

"The mechanical engineering students love this contest; it gets their competitive juices flowing," said Kountouras. "The students have determination and perseverance and NJIT has a superior curriculum that strikes a good balance between theory and hands-on applications."

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New Jersey Institute of Technology, the state's public technological research university, enrolls more than 8,100 students in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 100 degree programs offered by six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. NJIT is renowned for expertise in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and eLearning. In 2006, Princeton Review named NJIT among the nation's top 25 campuses for technology recognizing the university's tradition of research and learning at the edge in knowledge.


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