Construction accidents in the United States cost an estimated $10 billion per year, and they’re especially dangerous and costly when large machines are involved. An Interdisciplinary Capstone team is working with construction and mining equipment company Caterpillar to solve a problem at the crossroads of engineering and optical sciences. The mirrors on their heavy machinery occasionally have distortions, meaning the operators do not have a clear, reliable view of their workspace.
Team 23058 is creating a system that quantitatively measures the distortion of mirrors in less than 20 seconds. The student team plans to create a system that the mirror supplier can use to do their own distortion analysis using a laser grid. Caterpillar will also use this system for inspections. The distortion occurs during the glass tempering process and cannot be fixed. While all curved mirrors naturally have some distortion, the company has stated that variation in distortion is not acceptable. The team will test four different types of “spherical radius mirrors” found on Caterpillar’s machines. This continues a longstanding relationship between the UA and Caterpillar, the world's largest construction equipment manufacturer.
For ECE major Cameron James Sexton, the project is providing a valuable learning experience.
“I think it’s a really great opportunity to give all engineering students a piece of the world they'll be going into,” he said.