YEDT Projects

Annual Design Competitions

In order to increase enthusiasm within the engineering department and attract students to the group and its activities, the Engineering Design Team sponsors several team design competitions. These events are highlighted by Junk Yale Wars, the largest building event hosted by the group. In this competition, small teams compete to complete some design task, undisclosed until the day of the project, utilizing mostly junk collected from the Yale campus and New Haven area. The teams build for several hours during the day and test their design against each other in an evening competition. As with most of the activities that the group sponsors, students need not have any prior engineering or building experience to participate, as the Engineering Design Team provides materials, tools, and experienced engineering majors to act as team captains. Past years have seen amphibious vehicles, gravity clocks, and stair-climbing machines as design tasks for the competition.

In addition, the Engineering Design Team sponsors several other building projects scattered throughout the year. These competitions require less of a time commitment than Junk Yale Wars, yet still provide the same opportunity for students to experience the engineering design process. Teams are given a project and the necessary supplies and a couple of hours to complete the tasks. Past project for these competitions have included potential energy drag racing cars and cardboard boats.

Sponsored Research Projects

As part of the group's primary role as an intermediary organization, three major research projects are currently under its purview. These projects highlight different areas of the engineering field in order to attract a large number of interested students, and each project was decided on by a vote of group members. While independent projects, the group continues to contribute logistical and currently limited financial support to each.

The Exploration Alternative Organic Fuel for Transportation on Campus (Biodiesel)

Since last year, student members of the Yale Engineering Design Team have been working to convert a 1990 GMC Suburban diesel vehicle to run off of alternative organic fuel, vegetable oil. This process involves the installation of a second fuel tank to hold the vegetable oil fuel. In order for the engine to operate reliably on the vegetable oil, the reservoir needs to be heated to reduce the viscosity of the oil. The engine is run off diesel fuel when the engine is cold to heat up the coolant. Once the coolant begins to circulate the fuel flow will be diverted to draw from the vegetable oil tank using an installed switching mechanism. The engine is also run using diesel fuel for a few minutes before shutting down in order to flush the fuel system and prevent vegetable oil from congealing in the lines.

Since the completion of the mechanical conversion, the group has been studying the particulate matter (soot), the gas emissions, the gas mileage, and the wear and tear on the engine as a result of the new system. The group plans to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles and perform tests using a dynamometer to fully investigate the effects and to research the possibility of large-scale implementation. This portion of the project will hopefully present encouraging results for future environmental applications. The project is currently in collaboration with Yale Transit to advise their bus preventative maintenance program, and this relationship is very promising. Six members of the group recently toured the bus facility to learn more about the company's operation and bus maintenance. The eventual goal of the group is to publish its results and contribute information to the Yale Transit Bus Company to advise them of possible applications to their fleet. With the help of engineering faculty, the students are currently in the process of preparing experiments for eventual publication.

Click here to read the full project proposal

Aerial Autonomous Object Recognition System (AORS)

The AORS Project is designed to take on the challenge of creating a robust and affordable autonomous aerial platform for both commercial and military applications. One of the main goals of the project is to incorporate autonomous vision recognition and decision capabilities in order to create a versatile platform that can interact with other autonomous agents. The project will be divided into three phases in order to break the overall task into manageable segments. Phase One will focus on the conversion of a commercial model helicopter into an autonomous flight platform. Phase Two will then incorporate a vision sensor package and software suite to add autonomous vision recognition to the platform. If possible, Phase Three will then combine the platform with other autonomous agents and explore SWARM techniques for effective interaction between the agents. This year’s research will focus on the beginning stages of Phase One.

However, the ultimate goal of the project is to design a UAV for entrance into one of two competitions sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International beginning in 2007. Both the Seafarer’s Competition as well as the International Aerial Robotics Competition ( offer the opportunity to test our system, interact with other students from universities across the United States as well as increase the visibility of the Yale engineering program. The Seafarer’s Competition awards $5,000 annually to first place teams while the IARC has a $60,000 cash prize for the first team to finish the competition.

The team plans on utilizing most of this academic year to conduct basic research on such topics as helicopter flight, hobby helicopter dynamics, design and maintenance of model helicopters, and flight training. This will provide the team with the necessary knowledge base to design the hardware and software components for an autonomous model helicopter. Currently, the team has almost completed the refurbishment of three model helicopters that will eventually serve as platforms for an autonomous system. Team members are continuing to practice their piloting skills on a model aircraft simulator, and the group will start flying the models manually to create a working knowledge of model flight. In order to increase the knowledge base for the project, the team is also in the process of locating and consulting technical papers from other collegiate teams currently participating in the aforementioned competitions.

Solar Boat Project

As conventional resources run dry around the world, the investigation of alternative methods of energy is increasingly essential. The Yale Engineering Design Team’s Solar Boat Project, intends to harness solar energy to power a regular-sized boat. This boat will be entered in the prestigious, nation-wide Solar Splash competition. The project will encourage the use of environmentally-sound methods and give Yale students an opportunity to actively engage in the difficult process of working without fossil fuels.

The central goal of our project is to offer an opportunity for Yale students to learn about solar power and maximizing its efficiency. We plan on doing this by building an efficient solar boat. Today, solar cells are roughly 30% efficient, a fact that has turned many people away from using solar energy. The Solar Boat Project plans on maximizing the efficiency by perfecting the dynamics of the boat rather than altering the actual solar cell. By decreasing the amount of drag and other factors and by adding a hydrofoil to the boat, we hope to maximize the amount of solar energy being used to provide thrust.

This process will be completed over a period of two years. The first year will consist of research and development. The team is currently in the process of designing and modeling the boat using SolidWorks/COSMOS Floworks, COSMOSWorks and COSMOSMotion along with other CAD software. Virtual simulations of fluid dynamics will help us decide on the optimal structure. Further research is also being conducted on solar panel systems to help maximize the efficiency of the panels. By the end of the first year, a scale model will be constructed and extensive tests will be performed on it. During the second year, we will construct, test and improve the boat in preparation for entering it into the annual Solar Splash competition. This is a national contest where university students across the nation test their solar boat designs one against another. By competing in this nationally recognized competition, we will demonstrate the viability of this technology in personal and industrial marine applications.