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An International Multiyear Multidisciplinary Capstone Design Project

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone Design and Innovations in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.174.1 - 25.174.12

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Paper Authors


James L. Ellingson University of Saint Thomas

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James Ellingson received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota. Honors include a full-year Fulbright Grant for work at the Technical University of Denmark and an NSF-JISTEC grant for summer research in Japan. He worked for more than 10 years in industrial automation, instrumentation, and process development at 3M, Boston Scientific, and PPSI. In 2009, he returned to academia, joining the engineering faculty at the University of Saint Thomas, where he teaches courses in embedded systems, digital electronics, micro controllers, and machine design.

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Christopher S. Greene University of Saint Thomas

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Christopher Greene got his B.S. degree in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and then did his master's and Ph.D. at MIT, where he studied control theory. Following a 23-year career at Honeywell and another industrial company, he joined the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering. He is currently the Director of the Electrical Engineering program at St. Thomas and does research on the applications of control theory.

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Scott Edward Morgan


Miguel Angelo Rodrigues Silvestre University of Beira Interior

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Miguel Angelo Rodrigues Silvestre is an Assistant Professor at University of Beira Interior (UBI) in Portugal and an Integrated Researcher at CAST (Centre for Aerospace Sciences and Technology) of UBI. He has obtained his Ph.D. at UBI in 2009 on aerodynamics of SVTOL aircraft propulsion. In 2010, he has been a consultant by UBI for Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMCO), designing a propeller for the DHIII UAV. In 2009, he has been invited and sponsored to participate in the LMCO/University of Minnesota co-organized quiet UAV competition: Silent Stamina. He has been the advisor teacher, pilot, and team leader for UBI participations in Air Cargo Challenge design-build-fly international competition, winning the contest in 2003, 2007, and 2011. He was a visiting researcher, in 1999, at CNRS Orleans, France. He has participated in the research projects: Turbulent Structure of the Impact Zone of Two Opposed Wall Flow,” project Nº PTDC/EME-MFE/ PTDC/CTE-SPA/114163/2009, and “Estudo Numérico e Experimental de Jactos de Densidade Fortemente Variavel',' project nº415B4, French embassy/ICCTI with CNRS, Orleans, France. Currently, he is a UBI researcher in the project FP7-AAT-2011-RTD-1 Nº 285602-MAAT, “Multi-body Advanced Airship for Transport.” His main research and teaching topics are focused in aircraft fixed and rotary wing aerodynamics, propulsion, performance, design, and development. He is a private and glider pilot and an experienced R/C aircraft modeler.

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An International Multiyear Senior Design ProjectThe Senior Design capstone course(s) has been a major element of engineering education formany years. At our university, it has consisted of a two semester sequence with interdisciplinaryteams of electrical and mechanical engineering students working on projects defined andsponsored by industry. This has helped ensure that real world constraints are included, asrequired by ABET. In the ‘real world’, it is not uncommon today to have projects that areworked on all over the globe and we are trying to bring that reality into our program. Recently,we have started a multi-year experiment of a new kind of capstone project that will be describedand critiqued in this paper. This consists of a 5-year project with a new team coming on everyyear. The project is international in that parts of the project are designed in the USA and part ata university in Europe. The pieces need to fit together for the project to be successful. Thisproject is sponsored by a senior engineer at a multinational company that has high level contactswith government officials in both countries as well as contacts at the universities. We are nowstarting year two of the five year project and have started our third senior design team in theUSA. This project, in addition to the normal challenges of a capstone project, has allowed thestudents to see several new aspects including the necessity of good project documentation as itpassed from one year to the next, the value of multidisciplinary teams (the USA teams have beenmixtures of electrical and mechanical engineering students while the European team has beenaeronautical students), and the challenges of long distance and multicultural communication(thanks to Skype).Our paper further describes the project and discusses the advantages, disadvantages andchallenges of such a long distance, multi-year and international design project. Lessons learnedby both the students and faculty are presented.

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