Gonzaga University students Russell Minas and Tim DeMarco hope their senior class project will someday help handicapped musicians.
The two engineering students, who graduate in a week, spent the past months perfecting a device that automatically presses a piano foot pedal.
“We are hoping someday we can refine it so we can market it,” said Minas, of Spokane.
“It’s good to actually do something that will help the community,” he said. “We learn, and we also help people.”
The two students were among dozens of GU engineering seniors showing off the results of their class projects on Friday.
Another team of students designed a system for trailer lights that operates without wires between the trailer and the towing vehicle.
A third team studied and came up with alternatives for eliminating the Glennaire sewage lagoons in southeast Spokane. Their report will be used to obtain funding from the state to replace the lagoons.
Still another group worked with Spokane County to devise an easier system for determining the thickness of the gravel base and asphalt layers needed for new residential streets.
Engineering faculty members said the senior projects give students a chance to interact with members of their future profession, and to put their textbook learning to work.
Minas and DeMarco built their piano pedal pusher by hooking an ultra-sensitive microphone to a computer chip. The microphone is so sensitive it can pick up the sound of a cheek or thigh muscle contracting.
The computer chip sends a message to a mechanical system of tubes and a compressed air cylinder, which forces a plunger downward against the piano pedal.
Minas is not sure how much demand there is for the device, but if it can help handicapped people, it will be worthwhile, he said.