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BAE Seniors Showcase Their Final Projects

End of year senior design projects give students the opportunity to shine, and that’s exactly what BAE seniors do. 

The BAE Department’s Senior Design program is nationally recognized. Finished projects have gone on to benefit industry and communities around North Carolina.

 Over the years, BAE senior design teams have competed nationally at the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers Annual International Meeting. In 2020, an NC State BAE team won second place at the Gunlogson Senior Design competition. 

For BAE seniors to have the time and resources to achieve their project goal, the process begins in August. Grant Ellington, BAE extension associate professor, teaches the year-long senior design course.  The course is a two-hour class that meets twice a week. Students divide into groups and spend the year working on a project of their choice. Each group has a faculty and industry advisor to help guide them. Time is also set aside for three-hour lab group meetings. These resources provide students with the opportunities to apply what they learned from BAE over the past four years. At the end of the year, seniors give a department-wide final project presentation. 

This year, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Technology (BAET) seniors were also assigned their own final project for the first time. Andy Hale, BAE undergraduate coordinator and professor, teaches the new BAET Capstone Project. The program provides seniors with the opportunity to showcase their skills in biological and agricultural technology. 

In BAE it is best to learn by doing.

Senior Design Projects

Team 1: Integrative Systems for Urban Stream Protection and Beaver Coexistence

On Rocky Branch, an urban stream on NC State University’s campus, a beaver has dammed a section of the restored stream posing risks to the stability of the floodplain and surrounding infrastructure. The purpose of this project was to design, install and test beaver management devices to modify water levels and hydraulics in order to stabilize the riparian corridor while also allowing the beaver to persist in an urban environment. Lindsay Dodson, Jeremiah Jobe, Kevin Essig and Max Dyke worked on this project with faculty mentor, Barbara Doll.

Team 2: Retrofitting Stormwater Wet Ponds into Irrigation Basins.

The State Employees Credit Union (SECU) of North Carolina manages stormwater runoff from hundreds of properties across North Carolina. The primary objectives of this project involved optimizing the conversion of two existing stormwater wet ponds into functional irrigation basins for the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) offices in Burgaw and Cary, NC. The irrigation systems currently use potable drinking water, posing mainly financial but also environmental concerns. Victoria Wright, Jesse Dongarra, Dillon Weidner and Chris Penwell worked on this project with faculty mentor, Bill Hunt.

Team 3: Efficient Cultivation System for Sea Lettuce with Oyster Polyculture

Seaweed aquaculture provides ecosystem services through high nitrogen and carbon uptake, improving water quality, coastal storm protection, and aiding in oyster shell calcification. The goal of this project is to design a low-investment, versatile system for oyster farmers to cultivate a native North Carolinian Ulva species, commonly termed sea lettuce, in tandem with oysters. Nora Sauers, Paige Seibert, Riley McClanahan and Lauren Chandarana worked on this project with faculty mentor Steven Hall. 


Team 4: NCDOT Truck-Mounted Spreader System

The NCDOT currently maintains roughly 1,200 acres of wildflowers near highways in NorthCarolina. To do so, pelletized lime and fertilizer is applied throughout the year with a spreader. The team was tasked with updating an existing truck-mounted spreader to improve the system controllability and efficiency.

The goal was to provide the NCDOT with a spreader system that can effectively control the application rate from the inside of the truck cab. Jackson Vargo, Colin Licary, Luke Szoch and Sam Wallace worked with faculty mentor Jason Ward. 

Team 5: JET Erosion Test System and Setup Optimization

The Jet Erosion Test (JET) system simulates erosive forces on soil samples for a wide range of applied shear stresses, allowing for the determination of the soil erodibility parameters. The goal of the project was to design and build a hydraulically efficient recirculating water system for the JET. An additional objective was to improve the existing system ergonomics and mobility. Morgan Ayscue, Ryan Farrell and Nyawira Nyota worked with faculty mentors, Celso Castro-Bolinaga and Lucie Guertault.

Team 6: Design and Construction of a Pilot Scale Compost Bioreactor for Carbon Capture and Utilization

The objective of this project was to create and maintain an autonomous bioreactor system that utilized the microbiome within compost to produce high purity carbon dioxide. Rosie Maloney, Brendon Sadlowski, Hannah Wall and Shomari Presswood worked with faculty mentor, Joe Sagues. 

Team 7: Design of a Novel Modular and Automated Agricultural Sensing and Control Platform for Anywhere Agriculture

As the human population continues to increase, the need for food security has spurred the urgent development of localized food production systems and popularized “anywhere agriculture,” the practice of converting unused, unconventional spaces to produce crops. The primary objective of this project was to design and build a highly adaptable and user-friendly automation system to control parameters critical to plant health. Alex Brown, Raj Patel, Costas Pieri and Autumn Sylvestri worked with faculty mentor, Lirong Xiang. 

Team 8: Swine Farm Ammonia Reduction Filter

Food animal production, one of the largest sectors consuming and generating reactive nitrogen, contributes significant amounts of N emissions as ammonia. The goals of this project were to design, build, test and document the performance of a nitrogen harvest system to reduce ammonium nitrogen in swine wastewater. Hunter Patrick, Brendan Hoback, Andy Paris and Wyatt Kendall worked on this project with faculty mentor, Mahmoud Sharara. 

Capstone Projects

Team 1: Aquatic Biomass Harvester

This funded research focused on developing low cost, highly effective methods for municipal wastewater treatment that can be implemented at rural wastewater treatment facilities. Over 400 such facilities are currently active in North Carolina and most are granted generous effluent permits. These sites represent an opportunity to significantly reduce the total nutrient pollution from municipal wastewater sources. Duckweed has been tested in the past and shown to be effective in improving nutrient removal. Implementing a low-cost harvesting system that is easily operated by wastewater personnel is key for capturing nutrients assimilated by the duckweed. For this project Merrick Guo, Hunter Phifer, Brian Teiser and Luke Pike worked with Mike Burchell and Ryan Sartor.

Team 2: Designing and building an improved visual raingauge.

In the past, the team designed a ‘visual raingauge’ that collects rainfall from a conventional funnel and brings in a volume between two sheets of plexiglass such that the water surface forms a horizontal line that can be recognized in images taken by a trail cam, by a software that Francois Birgand’s team and colleague have written. The original prototype works well but is bulky and not very easy to use and maintain. The idea of this project was to create a smaller version of this ‘visual raingauge’ so it is easier to maintain where the water level might be better read than the original straw that floated up and down with water accumulated. For this project Lexi Calder, Jack Doherty, Jackson Huneycutt and Mckinley Richardson worked with, faculty mentor, Francois Birgand. 

Team 3: Design and Fabricate Engine Stands for the 6.7 Cummins 

The department received two donated 6.7L Cummins engines from the Cummins plant in Rocky Mount. They are prototypes of the latest generation of 6.7L engines. While they are not the models used in the Ram pickups, they are valuable teaching aids that have the potential to be used for our BAE 133, BAE 462 and BAET 411 classes, as well as potential demonstrations in other classes.

Since the donation of these engines, they have not done much but sit on a pallet and collect dust. The main reason for that is the lack of a system to safely handle these engines that weigh around 2,000 pounds each. To use these engines as teaching aids, students would need easy and safe access to all sides of the engine. The goal of this project was to design a system that would adequately handle, store and maneuver these engines as needed. Max Hooks, Grant Ellington and Kyle Bostian mentored Thomas Bartholomew, Jackson Carlyle, Peyton McMillan and Charlie Stephens during this project.

Team 4: Automated Seed Suction System for Planter Clean out

The team’s sponsor wanted to increase the efficiency of his current planter when planting different trials. Too much time was consumed and wasted cleaning out the individual planter hoppers when trying to switch varieties. The team approached him with an idea that would help solve his problem of the inefficient planter clean out method. The main objective was to clean out one hundred percent of one seed variety before efficiently switching to the next. The team prioritized maintaining the functionality of the planter. For this project Walt Bailey, Davis Brown, James Gaskill and Josiah Green worked with faculty mentor Chad Poole.