ECE senior Anthony Sanchez recently spoke with news channel KOLD about his senior capstone project to create an "animal enrichment device" for the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. Sanchez, along with fellow ECE senior Tiffany Ma and team members Kristine Jones, Jianna Auditore, Sarah Labat and Dustin Nguyen, took home the $5,000 Raytheon Award for the best overall design at the 2021 Craig M. Berge Design Day.
The device is a motion-controlled sensor that activates when a zoo animal is near, and can trigger a variety of animal "enrichments," such as fans or misters. This project can also save the zoo money, because their fans don't have to be on 24/7 if the animal is not in the vicinity. The team partnered with the Reid Park Zoo’s Animal Welfare Specialist Stephanie Norton, and tested the device with an 11-year-old jaguar, Bella.
“Being able to see Bella utilize the system and her interest in the enrichment activities is probably the most rewarding I could have asked for on this project,” Sanchez told KOLD. “Countless hours. There were a lot of weekends, a lot of late nights. I don’t get emotional often, but when I dropped off the final units, I was a little emotional that day."
According to the Team 21034's project proposal, the system is composed of four identical units containing electronic components in a weatherproof case. They use interchangeable passive infrared sensors and a radio frequency mesh to determine if another unit is active.
“Essentially, the project was to make a sensor-based system that would power electronic devices to further enriching the animals' lives or habitat, so it allowed the animals more freedom to choose which enrichment activity they want,” Sanchez told news channel KGUN.