Academics + Admission, Undergraduate Programs

Making Clarkson Sidewalks More Efficient

For their Senior Design class, a group of Mechanical Engineering students decided to create a plan for adding heated sidewalks in front of Clarkson’s Cheel Arena. Originating from one student’s idea for another class, this group took this student engineering project to the next level for the culminating class of their undergraduate education.

Student Engineering Project team working on "Making Sidewalks More Efficient"
Left to right: Lilly Magnus ’24, Andrew Schneid ’24, Brett Bohlmann ’24, Connor Suhovsky ’24.
Let’s hear about you Senior Design project team…

Brett Bohlmann: Sure thing. I’m Brett Bohlmann, a mechanical engineering major from the class of 2024, and I’m originally from Burlington, Vermont.

Andrew Schneid: Hey. I’m Andrew Schneid, also a mechanical engineering major from the class of 2024. I’m from Syracuse, New York.

Lilly Magnus: Hi, I’m Lilly Magnus, class of 2024 in mechanical engineering, and I’m from Holderness, New Hampshire.

Connor Suhovsky: Hey, I’m Connor Suhovsky, class of 2024, mechanical engineering, and I’m from Oceanside, New York.

Now, let’s talk about your student engineering project a little bit. What was the assignment  for your Senior Design Class?

Connor: Absolutely. So, in our integrated design class, also known as Senior Design, we’re working on researching heated sidewalks for the university. 

Andrew: Each person would think of a problem in the class and then would try and form a solution to it. And we would form groups based on whoever’s project/solution looks the most plausible.

Whose idea was it to work on the heated sidewalks specifically, and how did your group come together?

Brett: I initiated this project in a previous class during junior year, and since we had the option to continue with it in integrated design, we pitched the idea to the professor and he liked it. 

How did it feel to be able to build off something from a previous class?

Andrew: It was rewarding. Continuing this student engineering project over two semesters in senior design allowed us to make significant progress and further develop our idea.

Did you feel like having a project from a previous class gave you any advantages in the Senior Design class?

Brett: I think it gave us a leg up. We had a better sense of direction than other groups and a better starting point. So when we met with our faculty member the first day, we kind of were like, “Hey, here’s where we’re at and here’s our plan to continue”. And they just kind of said, “Yeah, sounds good. You guys are on the right track.”

How does this senior design assignment differ from other student engineering projects you got as a freshman or a sophomore?

Connor: We got way more involved with the school with this kind of project. We really had to find out specifics about road design, existing pathway design, how much concrete and so on. We actually found out through our research that Clarkson was already looking into the possibility of adding some heated sidewalks throughout campus. This project has really opened our eyes up to how many things go around behind the scenes.

Andrew: Also it was way more open-ended. I would say that in the past, projects were “Okay, you’re given a problem and there’s one way to do it.” But for this, we had the freedom to choose our own path. And the name of our actual project is ‘Making Clarkson Sidewalks More Efficient’. So we explored different ideas other than just heated sidewalks. We explored a little robot thing that cleans the sidewalks, kind of like a Roomba and just other things like that. But ultimately we settled on the sidewalk idea. Just having the freedom to say, “Well, if we did something like this…” is way different than previous classes.

It sounds like there are sustainability applications for this project using existing heat and water. How would that work?

Connor: From an environmental standpoint, we’re really trying to research as much as possible. Instead of adding more mechanisms, our plan uses existing mechanisms in Cheel Arena. The chillers and refrigeration systems for the ice rink already create excess heat. Our hope would be to use that excess heat and recycle it to the sidewalks.

What has been your favorite part of this project?

Brett: I think my favorite part of the project is that we kind of came up with all by ourselves. It wasn’t presented to us as an idea from the professor for our final student engineering project, and we’re pretty unique in that way. I think there are only one or two other groups out of six or seven in the class that have their own project that they came up with.

Andrew: My favorite part of the project would be being able to say in the future (hopefully) that we contributed to making the school a better place. The ultimate goal is to submit this project to potentially be implemented at Clarkson in the future. So just the possibility of coming back to Clarkson in the future and seeing our design or something very similar to our design actually in use on campus.

Lilly: My favorite part of the project was when we started talking to the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.  We had had a lot of ideas of how we would supply the system, but all of them were a little bit more complex, which they kind of needed to be. So being able to communicate with the Olympic Center and finding out exactly how they did it really helped us to streamline our process.

How would you feel if you came back to visit campus and you saw some heated sidewalks based off of your plan?

Connor: If I saw that Clarkson ended up implementing the system, I would be really satisfied. Knowing that my education and everything that I’m learning here and researching can actually be implemented. I mean, if you have enough research done it really just opens up opportunities. It really is like, “Oh wow, I built that,” you know?

Do you have any advice for a student going into senior design who is a little worried about what it entails?

Andrew: I would say just have fun with it. Do something you’re passionate about because otherwise, it could be a slog if you really don’t enjoy what you’re doing. Just get out there, try something different, maybe be a little bit unique. Something that you like doing.

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