A team of FIU engineering students has spent much of the past 10 months inside a lab, designing and building a robotic arm – a process that involved marathon sessions with Monday Night Football playing in the background, countless games of rock-paper-scissors to determine who got to go around the block at 2 a.m. to close the lab’s garage door, and even a mishap where one of the students’ pants caught on fire.

As the deadline approached, Jose Estevez, Carlos Estrada, Juan Fernandez and Janty Ghazi – all seniors majoring in electrical and computer engineering – gave up sleep and social activities to spend weekends in the lab.

“It was a lot of work, but we came up with something that made us proud,” Estevez said.

Their hard work paid off on Friday, Dec. 3 when their senior project, the Feedback Mechanical Hand, was evaluated and graded by a community panel during Senior Design Day at the College of Engineering and Computing.


Twice a year, senior student teams from the department exhibit their projects in a science fair, which is a requirement for graduation.  The 12 projects this semester also include a self-automated robotic car, a traffic control automation system, and an underwater buoy control system.

The project is particularly important for students who have not had internships or similar opportunities, said Herman Watson, professor and director of the Electrical and Computer Engineering undergraduate program.

“They still have this experience and accomplishment within the program,” Watson said.“It gives them a really good foundation to go out on job interviews.”

The Industrial Advisory Board will evaluate the projects. This year the board includes representatives from Baptist Health South Florida, Motorola, and FPL, among other companies, who will review and grade the 12 prototypes.

Estevez, Estrada, Fernandez and Ghazi will be showcasing their robotic arm, which is equipped with feedback sensors

The mechanical arm has shoulder, elbow and wrist articulation, and once the user grabs an object, the robot sends feedback to the user’s hand, indicating how tightly they are squeezing.

Ghazi, who lost a few leg hairs when his jeans caught on fire while he was welding aluminum, said that Senior Design Day is giving the group an opportunity to show what they are capable of creating.

“Who knows?  We might even get a job offer because of our project,” Ghazi said.

Media contact:  Madeline Baró at 305-348-2234.