Connecticut and University of Connecticut (UConn) are national leaders in Clean Energy and Sustainability. UConn was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to lead a nationwide decarbonization effort, centrally coordinating critical activities that can facilitate the adoption of Onsite Sustainable Energy Technologies among large energy users. This honor builds upon UConn’s reputation as a national leader in advancing clean energy.
UConn’s Innovation Partnership Building (IPB) at UConn Tech Park is a focal point for businesses interested in reducing their carbon footprint. By connecting companies to critical energy research, incredible high-tech facilities, and programs like Senior Design projects and professional education, the IPB is committed to driving progress in sustainability, and securing a sustainable, efficient, and profitable future powered by clean energy.
Recently, the IPB began conversations with ASSA ABLOY on applying state-of-the-art research towards achieving ASSA ABLOY’s sustainability commitments. Discussions led to options for student engagement, particularly through UConn’s Senior Design program.
Each year, UConn’s School of Engineering capstone Senior Design program engages seniors, faculty, and industry in a yearlong partnership to develop and apply innovative solutions to engineering challenges faced in real-life business settings.
In 2023, over 240 Senior Design projects were sponsored by more than 120 global and domestic participating organizations representing manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical, consulting, and utilities sectors. Students and their supporting faculty advisor work together with an industry sponsor to develop solutions to real-life problems in the field. The students research and analyze the problem, conceptualize design solutions and present solutions that can make a real difference to local industry and the state of Connecticut.
Recognizing the potential of enlisting student help to achieve their sustainability goals, ASSA ABLOY sponsored two UConn Senior Design projects.
ASSA ABLOY is the global leader in access solutions, operating in over 70 countries around the world with industry leading innovation and technology, making them a perfect fit as a sponsor for the Senior Design projects.
ASSA ABLOY supported three Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Engineering teams with two projects: reduced carbon footprint door construction, and improved materials for door-locking cylinder products for increased security. Through mentorship from ASSA ABLOY employees Dan Glover, Product Manager, Door Group; Dan Picard, Senior Director of Innovation, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Americas; and Clyde Roberson, Director of Product Management and Tech Services, Medeco Security Locks, the student teams spent two semesters dedicating hundreds of hours to their projects. Final projects were presented at an end-of-year public demonstration, where hundreds of teams shared their projects and findings.
“The projects we sponsored were based on some real challenges we have,” Picard explains. “We can only do so much with our limited resources, specifically on challenges surrounding science-based targets and materials themselves. We don’t have materials scientists or materials engineers in-house, so we must go to the experts. Fortunately, UConn has a wealth of experience and knowledge, so it made sense to sponsor the Senior Engineering Capstone projects.”
Sponsoring these projects also gave ASSA ABLOY the opportunity to meet new subject matter experts in these different areas and collaborate with UConn’s faculty. Picard affirms that “The engineering teams at UConn have access to some amazing technology, such as theoretical tools that help us to understand how materials function. These tools enabled the door construction project to do finite element analysis and see potential product failure points through all different types of door assemblies. They could test different amounts of force and impact resistance. This is something we do in our test lab, but they were able to simulate on a computer. The expertise of this software is something we don’t have in-house.”
Out of the 240 teams participating in Senior Design, one of ASSA ABLOY’s sponsored teams placed 3rd in the Materials Science and Engineering department competition. The project that focused on improving door locking cylinders for increased security and drill resistance, involved in-depth research of harder and tougher materials that improve the product but are easier to manufacture and machine.
“This team placing third is huge,” Glover explains. “They were competing against major companies and corporations like Sikorsky Helicopter, NASA, and Pratt and Whitney. They were also featured in UConn’s magazine, where only four projects were listed. It was an exciting achievement for them and for us as sponsors.”
What’s next for these winning ideas? They aren’t just forgotten at the end of the year. The work by the sponsored teams is being served as a baseline to kick-start new innovation initiatives at ASSA ABLOY.
“The teams at UConn provided us with ideas and insights that will help guide our future product development,” according to Picard. “We were beyond impressed with the results, particularly in lowering the CO2 footprint of the door, while maintaining its performance and integrity, and the investment was worth it. We had a real-life problem and were able to share our experiences with the students. In exchange, they provided us with hundreds of hours of research and offered potential solutions to our challenges.”
Both Glover and Picard comment on invaluable personal experiences during the program. “It’s an extra “above and beyond” what we normally do, but I learned so much,” Glover says. “I thank ASSA ABLOY for the opportunity to get involved and I would recommend we do it again in a heartbeat! It is such an enlightening experience and working with young engineers that see problems differently is energizing. We are helping develop our next generation of innovators and potential ASSA ABLOY teammates – it’s so rewarding.”
If your organization is interested in sponsoring a future UConn Senior Design project or partnering with IPB at UConn Tech Park to advance efficiency and competitiveness through sustainability, we would love to hear from you. Please contact:
Charles B. Maric
|IPB Partnership for Sustainability