Engineering Student Brings Flare to Senior Design Project


Josh Hilliard is pictured in front of Kaufman Hall

By Hannah Smith, Technology Editor

Originally published October 4, 2021.


Josh Hilliard, a mechanical engineering student at Old Dominion University, is not only a part of a senior design project, but also inspired the proposal of his group’s project. In his mechanical engineering senior design project class (ME 434/435), he had already sparked interest to create a project from his work-study opportunity this past summer with professor Hamid Eisazadeh, who works in the engineering technology department. The name of the project is “Examination of Strength and Heat Transfer Properties of Wood 3D Printed Parts.” This proposal came from himself and another group member, Chris Johnson.


Originally, Hilliard was tasked with researching and creating the “mixture” this past summer, which led to a grant from the Navy to continue research on additive manufacturing new mixtures, with one being sawdust and urea-formaldehyde (UF). The deliverables by the end of this class will be the design of the 3D printer frame based on stress tests and determining the best print pressure for the material at hand.

wood resign mold castings

What set this group apart from the rest of the class was the fact that in these types of classes, the professors will already have projects set up. However, Hilliard and Johnson were thinking outside of the box and from their own interests invested into this project.

“You have to make your own interesting project,” said Hilliard, “Rising [engineering] seniors should consider creating their own senior design project because you have more interest and passion in it and it’s not just a project, it becomes more fun.”


The group is made up of seven people, including Hilliard and Johnson themselves. The other group members are Hannah Dyer, Kaywan Proctor, Carter Smith, Kyle Sirois, and Cade Anderson.


This research has been achieved by purchasing a pneumatic caulk gun and reusable tubes that the mixture would be filled in with.


Hilliard explains, “It was just a matter of determining the best pressure for the caulk gun for the best lines (printed) and best print quality.”

3D printer designed by group

This is a direct example of the familiarity and exposure Hilliard has gained by simply working with a project that holds a lot of weight and freedom in its research. Hilliard is interested and intends to pursue a career in aerospace engineering after he graduates in May of 2022.


“This is additive manufacturing, which isn’t that [aerospace engineering] but it’s still an area of mechanical engineering I didn’t know and had no experience in, so it’s just been good to get hands on work for resume building.” Hilliard shared.


The grant runs until November. After this, the group will give the Navy the research they have found. Hopefully, more grants will be found so that the research can continue for the students who are not graduating this year because there are lots of learning opportunities for engineering students.


Hilliard gives advice to younger students to seek out opportunities to allow for hands-on experiences. These types of learning experiences are necessary to the formative years in college.


“Most professors have projects they’re always working on and doing research, they’re always looking for students to help them,” Hilliard said, “It’s not hard to find these types of opportunities, you just gotta be looking for it.”


The research foundation at ODU will publish each of the team members’ work. This will give each individual the ability to show future employers examples of published work.