The Perks of Being an Engineer: Viterbi Life @ USC

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Hey guys,

This week I’d like to talk about some of the most interesting engineering-related things that I have been involved with and that I find extremely interesting.

On campus there are a myriad of different hands on activities that you can be a part off. You can get involved in research, experiments, labs, internships, class projects, jobs, and more. Some of my favorite engineering experiences have been in class projects. For example, during my first semester our freshman academy class was assigned to create the ultimate Rube-Goldberg. Our class was split up into groups, each one responsible to create one section of the contraption. We were required to coordinate between groups to make sure that the individual parts would trigger each other and keep the Rube-Goldberg machine going. My group utilized a marble that was passed to our section by the previous group. It ran down the ramps that we built turning potential energy into kinetic, then knocked over a small bucket of water that spilled into a tissue paper canopy that was holding more marbles. Spilling the water weakened the tissue paper and allowed the weight of the marbles to break through and continue their journey through the section. They then knocked out a pillar which released a needle to pop a balloon. This then released more marbles to the net group through a funnel.

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One of my favorite aspects about this project was that it was by implementing simple yet effective (and reliable) physics and mechanics that we were able to reach our final goal. Oh, did I mention that the final piece of the Rube-Goldberg ended up launching a rocket 3000 feet into space? Yeah, the final group miscalculated the launch and thought it wouldn’t have been so high.

Some other of my favorite USC experiences involving engineering are the research that I’ve done at the Brain and Creativity Institute. I have had the opportunity to work with fMRI machines, and they are incredible pieces of machinery. It’s incredible to see the methods of biomedical engineering, especially those used to make imaging devices, come to fruition.

Some things that I am actively captivated by in the real world are the things that the company Organovo is attempting to do. The company, based in San Diego, CA, is one of the leading proponents of testing and implementing 3D printed organs for human healthcare. They believe that the emergence of 3D printed organs can be a huge step forward in the healthcare industry. They hypothesize that the technology could impact organ donor wait lists and pharmaceutical testing in monumental ways (and not without good reason to believe so). It is estimated that over $500 million is wasted per year in testing pharmaceuticals on animals that do not exhibit the same success in human trials. If the pharmaceutical companies could test the drugs directly on organ scaffolds, they could reduce the overall time and money spent on testing.

 

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