The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Team Ganz and Team Wolf Win

On April 23, the 20th annual Senior Design Project Day unveiled 13 clever, creative, and useful electronic inventions produced by seniors from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE). According to voting by faculty, Team Ganz (Blind Assistive Technology Bill Reading Device) and Team Wolf (Stuff Tracker) finished in a first-place tie for the best projects, while Team Tessier (Blue Tag) finished third. The student-sponsored People’s Choice Award, as voted on by students, staff, and visitors, also went to Team Ganz.

“These projects are really terrific and some have a real sense of social conscience that would ring well with the public,” said ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot.

The goal of Team Ganz was to develop a small, inexpensive optical reader that will audibly identify different denominations of U.S. paper currency for visually impaired individuals. No means inherently exist by which the various denominations of U.S. paper currency can be distinguished other than using its visual features. The small number of existing technological solutions are prohibitively expensive, impractical, or both. The team working with advisor Aura Ganz was Erick Drummond, Ian McAlister, Chris Neyland, and Colin Smith.

Stuff Tracker is a technology that allows anybody with a Smartphone to monitor the location of valuable objects carried around on a daily basis. StuffTracker gives you a method to detect your items in the first place, a device to tell you where your objects are when you need them, and a way to communicate with a large database that tracks the information related to the location of all these items. The Stuff Tracker team working under faculty advisor Tilman Wolf was composed of Brennan Burns, Sahil Shanghavi, Steve Stanvick, and Fadi Zoghzoghy.

Blue Tag is a system for implementing a novel "purchase at the rack" shopping experience in modern department stores. Bluetag combines the security and checkout aspects of modern retail. Consumers complete purchases with their own Smartphone by interacting with Bluetooth-enabled security tags attached to desired items, each indexed to appropriate pricing and description information on a web server available over the retailer's public WiFi connection. Working on this project with faculty advisor Russ Tessier were Michael Shusta, Gilbert Kim, Lucas Root, and Brandon Thorpe.

“I have to say that I spent significant time with each team, and I was impressed with each and every one,” said one college alumnus who attended the event. “And I think it might be interesting to have others from the local community, non-engineers, be there to see the real serious work that's being done.” (May 2010)