COVID – 19 throws a wrench in senior research and design

Benjamin Boersma — Staff Writer

Thursday, March 12—in the wake of Dordt’s decision to extend spring break and move classes online, a new decision had to be made: what to do about senior projects.

NEWS.Research and COVID19.PC Ryan VerMeer

“Part of the process is managing the project, so this had added a new wrinkle to all of that,” said Ben Saarloos, who is charge of the engineering students’ lab access. “The students are having to balance what they can and cannot do given the ever-increasing level of restrictions.”

Senior engineering students Matt Frazeur, Ryan VerMeer, and Jeremy Riege have been working on their project since October of last year. The grounds crew had been having some difficulty working underneath some of their bigger lawnmowers, so they asked the Frazeur, VerMeer, and Riege to come up with a portable lift to make the job easier. They spent the rest of the fall semester coming up with designs and have been working on construction this semester.

“We had the pieces cut before break, but not assembled,” said Frazeur.

Senior engineering students usually have to present their projects to the rest of the class, but with classes now completely online for the rest of the school year, they have met with their professors virtually andwill record a video of their presentation for the class.

“I found out that it’s really distracting when you can hear yourself on someone else’s mic,” said VerMeer. He and Frazeur are roommates, so they were usually in the same room when they started meeting with their professor. The problem was that one person’s microphone would pick up what was coming out of his speaker system, creating a feedback loop and causing what was essentially a digital echo.

Engineering students aren’t the only ones having to navigate the online side of senior projects. According to junior nursing student Gideon Brandsma, clinicals have been replaced by online simulations and case studies.

“Our prof said the added infection risks of students in the hospital is just not worth taking,” said Brandsma.

Overall, it appears that the transition has been going relatively smoothly.

“Some projects are more computational or ‘paper-based’ so they transition easier.  Other projects are very much prototype and hardware driven,” said Saarloos.

Lawnmower lift project had been slightly behind schedule because of some mistake with measurements, but the extra time has allowed Frazeur, VerMeer and Riege to catch back up.

“It’s been good for us to not have to meet for classes. We’ve had more time to work on our project,” said Frazeur.

They expect to be finished in time to present on their work at the end of the semester. Work is also being done on other senior projects, in spite of potential setbacks.

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