Submit a Project
Before submitting a project for the Capstone Design program, it's important to understand what makes a project successful.
The ideal project is the design of a product, process, software, or service that involves technical analysis, financial justification, and prototyping. This is an excellent opportunity, for a minimal investment, to investigate the potential for that "back burner" idea that has been sitting on your desk. Projects need to have a strong design component with clear, well-defined objectives to provide the students with an ideal starting point and allow them to keep focused. The required project work must be sufficient such that it may be handled by a team of 4-6 students within one 15-week semester. See examples of past projects for additional insight into the scope and types of projects that work well for our students.
To support project expenses, sponsors make a donation of $3,500 to the College of Engineering. Of that $3,500 donation, $1,000 goes to the project team for expenses, another $1,000 covers Learning Factory expenses, with the remainder covering instructional and facilities costs on the academic department level.
Some projects may incur additional expenses depending on a sponsor's needs for Intellectual Property & Confidentiality. Once a team has been formed and starts working on a project, part of the donation can be submitted as a tax-deductible contribution to Penn State. Additional expenses to support the program are provided by the College of Engineering and sponsor donations.
Sponsor involvement is essential to the success of the Learning Factory and the College of Engineering's Capstone Design program. Sponsors are expected to identify a liaison to serve as the team's point-of-contact for the project for the semester. We rely on our sponsors to fully engage their project teams during the semester and help us "hold their feet to the fire." We find the more time sponsors invest in the project, the more they get out of it.
The sponsor liaison should plan on:
- attending the Project Kick-Off Meeting (2nd week of the semester)
- providing additional details beyond the one-page Project Description
- facilitating visits from the project team, if necessary (2nd-3rd week of the semester, later if needed)
- interacting regularly with the team via tele- and/or video-conferences, weekly memos, etc.
- reviewing reports and providing feedback from an industry point of view
- evaluating the students' performance (part of the final)
- attending the Design Showcase (last week of the semester)
- demanding constant professionalism and a high level of performance from the students
Depending on the nature of the project, the deliverables may include any or all of the following:
- Technical reports (concept, preliminary, detail)
- Feasibility studies, engineering analyses
- Competitive benchmarking
- Engineering drawings and specifications
- Prototypes and preliminary hardware
- Computer programs, simulation models, data
- Manufacturing or service delivery process plans
- Presentations, animations, videos, demonstrations
- Final technical report, poster, and one-page summary
Each project will typically involve a team of 4-6 students over a 15-week semester. Considering that students will also be taking other courses at the same time, this equates to approximately 400 person hours of effort devoted to the project. Results from student teams are highly dependent on the nature of the project, the innate team capabilities, the amount of client interaction and support, and many other variables. No guarantees can be made, other than the students will give it their best effort. Often, a project provides direct and immediate benefits to the sponsor. Another common outcome is a good concept, but further work is required (either by a follow-on project, or by the sponsor's in-house staff) to bring the project to fruition. Again, we find that the more sponsors put into it, the more they get out of it.