Last year, the South Bend police department approached Notre Dame's electrical engineers with a problem concerning power consumption in their patrolling vehicles. The department was replacing car batteries at an unexpectedly high rate, and the members of the force and the garage crew could not agree on a specific cause. The problem became a senior design project, and four students completed a prototype system in the summer of 2007 (Team Five-0). The unit solved some of the initial design problems, but more design work is needed to reach a usable and marketable solution.
The collaboration between Notre Dame and the South Bend police department excited the community, and the project was picked up by the local news media. This coverage exposed the project to a wider audience and the design team garnered interest from other public service departments and even a television camera crew. As the scope of the problem, and thus the number of potential customers, grows, motivation for continuing and advancing the project increases. In May 2008, this project should look like a second iteration of a product design; that is, it should build off of everything the first iteration does right to meet our design requirement. We will be closer to our goal - a usable and marketable product.