Capstone Projects FAQ
What is the Capstone Project/Course?
The Capstone Course is a design experience for senior level students in the engineering program at the College of the Ozarks (CofO). The capstone courses are the concluding series for the general engineering program where student teams design, build and test solutions to real-world problems.
What are some of the advantages for students?
- A practical real-world design experience
- Advance problem-solving skills within teams
- Develop time and finance management skills
- Project management experience
- The chance to connect and work with potential employers
How big are the project teams?
Design teams typically consist of two to four students, but may be larger or smaller depending on the particular project. Typical projects are estimated at 600 man-hours including design, build, and test.
Where do projects come from?
Design projects are typically initiated by industrial partners and represent real-world design problems from within their company. Projects can also be submitted by community groups and non-profit organizations.
What background will the students bring to the Capstone Project?
All students will have completed traditional engineering courses in statics, dynamics, mechanics of materials, and materials and processes, as well as gained experience with AutoCAD, Inventor and Matlab. Students will also have completed thermodynamics and fluid systems, measurement and control, circuits and systems, Lean and Six Sigma concepts, the mathematics series, chemistry and calculus based physics courses. Other courses that students may have taken include civil infrastructure, fundamentals of industrial and systems engineering, agricultural engineering fundamentals, and chemical engineering fundamentals. In addition, the students will have completed the Engineering Project Management course prior to entry into the Capstone Project.
Capstone design projects should require some level of engineering analysis e.g. hand calculations, computer simulation, equipment selection, sensors, programming, data collection, control system design, etc.
What is the process for getting a project submitted as a potential Capstone Project?
If your organization is interested in sponsoring in a Capstone Project, please consider submitting a project proposal. The form requests the following to introduce the company and the potential project to the engineering faculty for consideration:
- Company/Organization contact information
- Background on company and services/products provided
- Project description including background and problem statement
- How the project is important to your organization
- Project deliverables requested
- Anticipated budget – project sponsors will cover the cost of materials and special software.
How does a project get accepted as a Capstone Project?
All projects submitted to the Capstone coordinator are reviewed by the engineering faculty and staff. The instructor will work with the project sponsor to verify the scope and complexity are appropriate for the course and students skill level. Once an agreement has been reached, the project sponsor and CofO sign a Statement of Work (SOW)
outlining the expectations of both the sponsor and CofO for the potential project.
Once a SOW has been approved, the project will be available for selection during the Engineering Project Management course (Spring Semester). Students will rank projects based upon their own career interests, skills sets and previous work experience. Depending upon the number of teams and available projects, the Capstone instructor will assign students to projects. Once a team has been assigned, the project is considered Active and project activities will begin.
We cannot guarantee that all projects will progress into the Capstone Course.
What happens during the Capstone course?
Spring Semester (during the Engineering Project Management course):
- In coordination with the project sponsor, gather additional background information about the problem statement; establish a clear understanding of the problem as presented
- Perform a preliminary research on existing technologies/patents, products, literature, etc.
- Investigate the design space and generate project path and proposed solutions
- Prepare a project proposal in response to the statement of work including proposed schedule, planned approach, budget proposal and statement of deliverables as agreed to with the project sponsor.
Fall Semester the students will:
- Perform critical analyses for the design(s)
- Create a non-functional prototype to illustrate the concepts
- Present a Preliminary Design Review
- Start the critical design and build of the project
Spring Semester the students will:
- Continue to design, build and test their project
- Perform a Failure Modes Effects Analysis of their project
- Present a Critical Design Review of their project
- Create a poster and present their project at Design Night
- Present a Final Design Review
- Generate and deliver a Final Design Report and working project
Teams will be required to provide updates to project sponsors at the requested frequency (minimum bi-weekly communication) and meet with the technical mentor assigned by the sponsoring organization as needed (estimated at 1-2 hours per week, up to 4 hours when approaching project milestones).
What resources are available to the Capstone teams?
Students in the Capstone program will use the Engineering Labs in the new Dee Ann White Engineering Center for most of their project development. The laboratory facilities include:
- Assigned and secured cabinets for teams project materials
- Large computer screens for group collaboration and presentations
- Fume hood
- Tool checkout for more expensive power tools
- Parts inventory for standard fasteners and other common parts
- Basic electrical equipment such as power supplies, oscilloscopes, function generator etc.
- Basic hand tools
- Soldering station
Teams will also have access to the following:
- Machine Shop
- Milling machine
- Drill press
- Other tools
- 3D Printing
- Laser engraving/cutting equipment
- Other Research Lab Tools
- Tensile strength tester
- Wind Tunnel
- Electrical equipment?
What are the potential benefits for industrial sponsors?
- Opportunity to evaluate student talent for job recruitment
- Provide professional development opportunity within your organization for those assigned as technical mentors
- Cost effective way to address problems that may have been overlooked due to resource constraints
- Increased visibility within the engineering student body and within the College community
What does it cost to sponsor a project?
As each Capstone Design Project is unique, sponsorship fees may vary from project to project. Budgets are discussed with the sponsor to ensure sufficient funding for completion of the project and only the cost of materials and specialized software (if needed) are to be covered by the sponsor. If special testing is required outside of the capabilities of the College, the sponsor will be requested to cover the additional costs.
What are the responsibilities of a technical mentor?
A company delegate, referred to as the technical mentor, should be available to interface with the students and Capstone coordinator on an as-needed basis. Weekly meetings are not a requirement, however the technical mentor should be available to clarify requirements and answer questions when needed. The technical mentor will be asked to review and approve the proposed budget, deliverables and facilitate communication between the Capstone teams and the project sponsor. The mentor will also be invited to attend the Design Review presentations during the Fall and Spring semesters.
The teams in the Capstone course are eager to solve your engineering problems, however the course series and subsequent project timelines span over the course of three semesters. Requirements for the successful completion of the course (assignments, reports, etc.) also impact the pace at which progress is made on a project. We ask for your understanding and grace as we shepherd the students through the project and course while keeping your satisfaction as a project sponsor at the forefront.
What does sponsoring a Capstone project cost?
The primary cost for the Capstone course is offset by the College through the Engineering department. This includes, but is not limited to standard laboratory equipment and maintenance, printer and document costs, course administration, classroom supplies, etc. This support is critical to the program by providing the students the resources and needed for a successful project.
Sponsors are asked to fund the material costs and special software (if applicable) associated with their project. An initial estimate of project material costs and special software are requested in the project summary proposal and will be refined further as the project progresses in the first semester. The students will present a budget and get approval before spending money on their project.
What about Intellectual Property? What if we have a proprietary process/product?
Please contact the Capstone coordinator to discuss questions regarding intellectual property. Every project will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the correct approach.
At the conclusion of the course, students will present the results to the sponsoring organization and at the College project open house unless other arrangements are made with the sponsor. Please contact the Capstone Coordinator if you have a project that requires Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA). CofO can supply a standard NDA that can be signed by the students or a company supplied NDA can also be used; please allow for additional time for legal review prior to project approval for company supplied NDAs.
What do sponsors receive at the end of the project?
Sponsors receive a comprehensive design report generated by the project team. The report fully documents the design as agreed upon in the SOW (drawings, assembly instructions, code, etc.) and includes engineering analysis. Sponsors also receive all prototype hardware, software, etc. generated as part of the project.
My organization is not in the Southwest Missouri area. Is that a problem?
Reach out to the Capstone Coordinator to discuss your potential long distance project. Design teams can utilize online tools such as Skype/Zoom for video conferencing to accommodate those companies at a distance.
What’s the Timeframe?
Project recruitment is ongoing! However projects scheduled to run through the 2019-2020 timeframe have a deadline of January 31, 2019 for submission of the project proposal summary form. By mid-February, project proposal summaries will be reviewed and scopes verified with the project sponsors. SOW will be finalized by March 1st. Project selection will be complete by March 6th and all sponsors will be notified of the results. Project teams will be introduced to the sponsors and the projects will kick-off by March 11th. Students will have six (6) weeks to prepare the proposal response for review and approval by the project sponsor/technical mentor. During this period, teams will perform the tasks as described above (see section: What happens during the Capstone?).
Due to the time crunch at the end of Spring semester, sponsors are requested to submit feedback on proposal responses to the teams within 7 days of submission to allow time for final edits and grading. A complete schedule of events will be provided to sponsors showing course milestones and project deliverables for the Spring semester. As the project progresses in the Fall, project timelines and milestones will be communicated through the project teams.
What happens if the design doesn't work?
The result of a Capstone project may be a tangible, finished product or process; or maybe the project plants the seed for a future project within your company. Ultimately, the Capstone Design Program is educational in purpose and is designed to help students practice the engineering design process and project management skills within a team framework. Project teams will do their best work, yet all project work is provided to the sponsor "as is" and is not guaranteed by the College.