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Capstone Program Overview

The two semester Capstone program (MAE 4800 and 4810) provides an opportunity for students to solve real engineering problems while working closely with faculty and industry sponsors. Sponsors provide the requirements and funding, faculty provide overall project guidance, management, and mentorship, and students provide the solutions.

The overall program goal is to improve student’s “design to realization” skills. The primary objectives are for students to become well acquainted with an applied hands-on understanding of engineering principals and for sponsors to receive solutions to engineer problems that meet and often exceed their requirements. To assist in meeting those objectives, student progress is closely monitored through lectures, lab sessions, formal design reviews, informal meetings, oral presentations, and notebook checks. An added benefit to the program is that students often create connections with sponsors that last well beyond the two semesters.

The program incorporates the use of cutting edge modeling and management software to help familiarize students with some of the tools they will likely encounter during their careers.

If required, multidisciplinary teams can be formed comprised of students and faculty from Biological Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Business, and other departments.

Program Structure

Capstone Design I (MAE 4800) is offered fall and spring semesters. At the start of the semester students form groups of typically five to eight, and with faculty guidance they choose from among the potential projects submitted by sponsors. Over the next few weeks each team meets with its sponsor and collects information that when combined with independent research becomes the basis for a Project Plan. This plan outlines project requirements, methodologies to be employed, schedules, budgets, and any special results required. Going forward the plan may be modified to meet the needs of the sponsor or the educational requirements of the program.

Students are required to create and keep current a Project Notebook. In it they record their project ideas, information obtained, meeting notes, critical design and methodology ideas, and their decision processes.

Throughout this semester several Design Reviews gauge the status of each project. Students provide written reports and peer-critiqued oral presentations. Sponsors are highly encouraged to attend these reviews and provide guidance.

During the second semester in the Capstone Design II course (MAE 4810), the teams create, test, refine, and demonstrate engineering prototypes. At the end of the semester each team provides a Written Report and their final prototypes. The report summarizes the project, describes the alternate solutions considered, and details the selected final design. Each team also delivers an Oral Presentation of the completed work to its sponsor and faculty advisors.

Lectures during the two semesters focus on design issues and professional responsibility. Student participation is integral to the lecture periods since the questions asked and issues raised by students guide the course of discussion.

Project Success

Nearly two hundred capstone projects have been successfully completed over the life of the program. Some have become marketable products and several more are in various stages of determining their marketability.

Several recent projects have received national and international recognition including multiple first and second place awards in government and industry sponsored competitions. Some recent examples include:

  • 1st Place NASA Rocket Launch Competition 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012
  • 1st place in the 2012 AFRL Design competition
  • 1st and 2nd place in the 2013 AFRL Design competition

Projects in Capstone I for Spring 2010 included a Marsian CO2 Condenser, a wheelchair to car trunk loader, improving speed in a human powered vehicle, a calibrated heat flux generator, a wheelchair to under car creeper, redesign of an articulating arm, a fuselage for a human powered airplane, a wind powered vehicle-land yacht, and the designing and testing of the MAE Lunar Lander project.


Our Capstone Design program sponsors represent a broad cross section of industry and government including companies in the manufacturing, construction, health care, education, aerospace, and defense markets. Their funding and guidance during a project are invaluable to its success.

A sponsor benefits by having their important engineering problem be the top priority of a student team. Often these projects are ones the sponsor may not have the time or resources to pursue internally. Having a committed student team dedicated to the project provides the sponsor with a rapid and very cost effective solution.

Projects are much more likely to be successful when sponsors are involved with the project outcome. Sponsors provide the critical insights that help to insure the project meets the design requirements. This begins with a sponsor generated requirements document describing the desired results and continues as the sponsor remains involved in the project review process.

The sponsor retains all intellectual property and product rights for their project. The one page sponsorship agreement describes the sponsor’s benefits and commitments. We encourage interested sponsors to contact us at to set up a time to talk about their project and how best to schedule its inclusion in the program.

We gratefully acknowledge our sponsors for their support! Some of our current sponsors include: