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A Multiuniversity, Interdisciplinary Senior Design Project In Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.68.1 - 14.68.11

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Paper Authors


Patricia Mellodge University of Hartford

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Patricia Mellodge is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hartford. She received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island. Her graduate work was completed at Virginia Tech where she received an M.S. in Mathematics and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. Research interests include control system design, mathematical modeling of microwave processing, and bio-instrumentation.

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Diane Folz Virginia Tech

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Diane Folz is a Senior Research Associate and Laboratory Instructor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Virginia Tech. She also is the faculty advisor for the Material Advantage Student Professional Organization and of the Journal of Undergraduate Materials Research (JUMR). In addition to teaching the materials processing laboratories, she mentors at least one team each year in their senior capstone project.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Multi-University, Interdisciplinary Senior Design Project in Engineering


A senior capstone design project is being conducted jointly by research teams at two universities. The focus of the project is on microwave processing of composite materials, including characterization of materials properties before and after heat treatment and vibrational analysis of the composite system. This year's senior engineering students are participating in the first year of the multi-year project.

To accelerate the project achievements for subsequent student participants, an interdisciplinary transitional summer program is being proposed as a method for technology transfer from this year's seniors to the upcoming seniors via a four-week team interaction.


To succeed in today’s complex and rapidly advancing global marketplace, graduating engineers must be able to work on interdisciplinary teams that may be geographically spread over large distances. In an effort to expose engineering undergraduates to this kind of experience and develop the necessary skills, Virginia Tech and the University of Hartford are developing a joint senior research project involving two distinct disciplines. The project is related to microwave processing of composite materials, including characterization of materials properties before and after heat treatment and vibrational analysis of the composite system. While neither the interdisciplinary1,2 nor the multi-university3 aspects of this project are new concepts, the involvement of an industry partner ensures that this project will last several years. As a result, the universities are also developing a summer program to ensure a smooth transition between groups of seniors.

There are two primary goals for this collaboration, one technical and one pedagogical:

1. To develop a microwave curing process for polymer coatings on instrument woods. 2. To establish a collaborative effort between research programs at Virginia Tech and the University of Hartford.

Project Development

The technical project was initiated in 2005. Based on the expertise of the faculty members in the use of microwave energy for materials processing and their personal interests in guitar building, the concept of replacing conventional heat treatments with microwave techniques was developed. It wasn’t until 2007 that they acted on their ideas, visiting four manufacturers over the following year, ranging from small production shops (8 instruments per week) to large-scale manufacturers (>100 instruments per day). One of the manufacturers, Taylor Guitars located in El Cajon, CA, expressed an interest in the microwave technology that could improve their wood curing process and agreed to work with Virginia Tech and the University of Hartford by sharing

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