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University electrical engineering design projects from across North America provided a glimpse into the future through the annual Texas Instruments (TI) Innovation Challenge North America Design Contest award ceremony held in July.

Drawing upon TI technology, winning projects from the 2015 design contest included advanced solutions that will change how the physically disabled create music; how the hearing impaired communicate with others; and how unmanned search and rescue missions are carried out.

Troy Bryant and Sean Lyons from the University of Florida were named the overall winners for their project, Seven Deadly Synths: A non-contact synthesizer. Inspired by the early analog synthesizers of the 1960s and 70s, Bryant and Lyons sought to create a musical device that could be operated without advanced motor skills. Featuring a complete design based on TI technology, from power management to a microcontroller (MCU) to signal chain, the team created a synthesizer instrument that can be used by musicians of all skill levels. The device specifically allows disabled musicians to create sounds using simple movements, like the wave of a hand.

The winning project features 35 TI components in its build design, including a real-time MCU, eight power management solutions and 26 signal chain products.

“Students are boundless in their creativity because they see the world through a lens of limitless possibilities,” says Steve Lyle, director, engineering workforce development and university marketing for TI. “The entire focus of the TI Innovation Challenge is to empower engineering students to think through design challenges and to come up with creative solutions that address issues people face today. The winning teams this year represent an impressive array of both problem-solving and diversity of thought, and TI is proud to have the opportunity to work with these young engineering minds.”

A team from the University of Texas at Dallas, comprised of Jian Wu, Zhongjun Tian and Lu Sun, secured the second-place prize for their Real-time American Sign Language wearable device. Using a wrist-worn inertial sensor and surface electromyography sensors, the device wirelessly translates sign language to a computer for those who do not know the language.

Third place was awarded to Jordan Street from the University of Florida for Hercules Autopilot, a full flight control system designed for quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicles. These autonomously-flying vehicles allow for significant tasks to be performed with precision in hazardous environments such as search and rescue missions, monitoring for extreme weather conditions and security applications.

During the 2014-15 school year, 300 teams from accredited engineering colleges and universities across the United States, Canada and Mexico participated in the TI Innovation Challenge. This year, the top three finalist teams presented their projects to TI business leaders and contest judges during the TI Innovation Challenge finals in Dallas.

Winning projects are selected for their use of engineering practices and are judged on criteria such as originality and creativity of the application, complexity and quality of the design, and effective use of TI technology. 

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