The first students to earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering from Utah Valley University have made impressive strides in their careers and brought recognition to the program, having captured first place in a national competition of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The major is new at UVU. Previously, students could take pre-engineering classes, then transfer to a different institution to earn bachelor’s degrees. Two years ago, four new programs began for mechanical, civil, electrical and computer engineering. There were 15 students in mechanical and civil engineering, and that number has already increased, with 35 students entering their senior year in the fall.

Four members of this year’s graduating class participated in the ASME event, in which they designed and built a drone (unmanned aerial vehicle) to fly between obstacles, pick up a payload, and drop it off precisely where assigned, all while being timed.

“This is very exciting and rewarding,” said Masood Amin, an associate professor of engineering at UVU. “It is the first national award received by a team from our new engineering programs at UVU. Knowing the quality of our students and programs, we expect more national champions in the near future.”

That future is already looking bright. The team started the competition as underdogs, facing engineering powerhouses including the University of Michigan and North Carolina State University.

“Taking first place was beyond our imagination,” Amin said. “I was very impressed by the quality of the work they were doing.” The word is getting around. For next year’s ASME competition, UVU will be the host university.

“Now we are on the map,” Amid said. “We will get our name out there even more.”

Rodrigo Osorno, Shawn Weeks, Logan Sanford and Bryce Prestwich were the team members. Two are juniors and two are sophomores.

“I was so glad our efforts paid off — what a great way to end the first semester of the UVU ASME Chapter,” Osorno said. “We could not have had a more perfect team, and I’m so thankful to them.” The team members had their individual assignments, but Amin said an additional strength was how well they worked together.

UVU officially established its chapter of the engineering society in January and the team got busy designing and building the drone according to the contest specifications. It included lightweight 3D-printed components, two cameras, and specialized handles to enable safe pickup and delivery of items. The students designed a type of joint to minimize damage and repair costs in case the drone crashes. The drone has the ability to both fly and drive.

It even has a name — it’s affectionately called “Lucy.”

Lucy’s timing was right. Not only were the team members able to have her successfully negotiate the course with the best time, they were able to film an entry video highlighting the drone’s abilities to navigate the obstacles and perform the required tasks. The video was filmed prior to the COVID-19 precautions. Team members were unable to travel to Michigan for the event, but virtual attendees were able to see the results.

More exciting results are anticipated. One of the next steps is getting accreditation for the majors. That would be retroactive, and the recent graduates would be deemed to have their degrees from an accredited program. And that is just the start.

“There are so many more jobs in mechanical engineering than there used to be,” Amin said. “Technology improves all the time. There are new areas of technology that we see develop. For example, drones are now being used for commercial purposes.”

With UVU’s name more in the spotlight, the university is developing relationships with industry leaders around the country, Amin said.

“They want to support programs like engineering and technology. As they help us, they get to know and hire good, qualified students. It is a win-win situation.”

Amin had the opportunity to teach these students in several classes over their time in the mechanical engineering program at UVU. “Our students worked hard, and I am very proud of them,” he said. “They are very bright and talented. I know for sure they will be excellent engineers.”

Those who wish to watch the drone perform its maneuvers may go to https://youtu.be/-_kt4S7MAFg.