Mechanical Engineering Students Create Adaptive Art Resources as Part of Senior Design Project – Utah State University

This year, 12 new sponsors are participating in the Utah State University College of Engineering Senior Design program, including the Logan-based, non-profit adaptive art studio Jump the Moon.

Senior Design is a required course for all engineering seniors and provides students an opportunity to complete a project related to the discipline they studied. Support for these projects comes from a variety of places including industry partners, non-profit organizations, and USU faculty and departments.

Michael Bingham, the founder of Jump the Moon, is sponsoring two student projects this year. His art studio focuses on increasing accessibility in art by using tools and methods that can be adapted to meet an individual’s ability level.

“I am an idea person,” Bingham said. “I’ve got a lot of ideas about how art can be more accessible for everyone. And so the idea was maybe if I can share some of my thoughts with engineers who know how to build things, then these ideas can be real and not just in my head.”

One of the Senior Design teams is creating a machine equipped with a drawing utensil, such as a pen or marker, which can be guided with a steering wheel or joystick. The drawing implement will be held steady with a magnet to create the illusion that it is magically floating. This device will allow individuals with limited movement in their hands to more easily draw.

The second project is a special drawing station designed to look like a robot. This station will be portable and have heated fold-out trays for people to draw on with crayons. As people draw on the trays, the warmth will melt the crayons creating art that looks similar to a painting.

When it comes to creating tools for Jump the Moon, Bingham says the “wow factor” is important. A portable robot that Bingham and his team can take to places like an assisted living center or a special needs classroom can bring a sense of wonder, which helps remove barriers if people are hesitant to create art.

“We want there to be a little bit of mystery, a little bit of surprise,” Bingham said.

Victoria Steeneck is a mechanical engineering student working on the drawing machine. Steeneck wants to be a design engineer and hopes to work at Disney. The creative nature and potential for positive community impact are reasons she wanted to work on a project with Jump the Moon.

She is also excited to see the things she has learned from years of coursework come together in one project.

“I love that we are building something physical,” Steeneck said. “It is no longer theoretical.”

Christopher McLaughlin, also a mechanical engineering student, is on the team designing the robot crayon melting station. He was drawn to the project because he has a son with learning disabilities.

“Simply because of that, teaching him and raising him and knowing what Jump the Moon stands for, I was passionate about what they do,” he said.

Both of the Jump the Moon Senior Design projects will be on display on Wednesday, May 4 in the Taggart Student Center from 6 to 8 p.m. This will be the first in-person Senior Design Night since May 2019 and will showcase over 70 student projects from the past school year.