June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Capstone project courses have become an increasingly important part of Engineering Technology programs. These hands on projects can be useful in improving student outcomes and generating assessment data for accreditation. Administering capstone project coursework can be challenging for faculty. Depending on the number of students in the program finding projects with the appropriate technical scope can be problematic. Obtaining materials and funding can also be a substantial obstacle, particularly for undergraduate work.
One approach to administering Capstone projects that is gaining popularity is for faculty and students to partner with industry to connect students with real world engineering problems. This kind of academia/corporate collaboration has its own set of challenges. Depending on the company and the project, there will be various kinds of risk assumed by the involved parties. Students are typically focused on meeting program requirements and graduation. Faculty may be looking to support scholarship, perform curricular assessments, and to maintain future collaborations. Companies are usually focused on resource allocation, time to market, and cost.
This work describes an Engineering Technology Capstone project that took place over a two-year period with a team of five undergraduate students, two faculty members and a corporate mentor. The industry sponsor was a small one-person company that specializes in the design and assembly of mechanical and electrical sensing systems. Several state and federal programs provided funding for materials and student compensation.
The goal was to develop a solar powered remote network of sensors that could be installed on a building’s roof. The purpose of this network is to measure the characteristics of the roof’s snow load. For the experimental installation, mobile applications were developed to monitor the network’s data stream and issue warnings of possible hazardous structural conditions. The original prototype used open-source programmable microcontrollers that supported wireless communication and global positioning systems (GPS). The resulting systems were evaluated and tested. Several follow on revisions were developed to optimize the power budget and casing into a commercial product that could be manufactured at a competitive price point. The project provided students a significant technical challenge, was funded, supported faculty scholarship, and helped a small company successfully launch a new commercial product.
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