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Community Outreach For Capstone Design: The Cycle Projects

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Design for Community

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.308.1 - 7.308.9



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Paper Authors

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Brian Thompson

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Craig Somerton

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Main Menu Session 2625

Community Outreach for Capstone Design: The Cycle Projects

Craig W. Somerton and Brian S. Thompson Department of Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University

Introduction A current trend in engineering education is the incorporation of a service learning experience. One such example is the EPICS program at Purdue, which involves the volunteer work of engineering students in the community [1]. Another approach, proposed herein, is to utilize the senior capstone design experience in community outreach. This approach has been taken during the past three years in the mechanical engineering senior capstone design course at Michigan State University. Each year a student design team has designed and built a cycle for a youngster with special needs from the local community. These cycles have included a robust three wheel cycle for a large young man (six feet nine, 285 pounds) with a mild form of cerebral palsy, a hand cycle for a double amputee, and a hand cycle for a youngster with little use of her legs. These projects have not only proved to be challenging design projects, but they have also been very rewarding for the students too because they see clearly the benefits of their endeavors. The outreach projects have also impacted the other students in the course and this has developed in them a greater appreciation for the service aspect of being a professional engineer. Further, these projects clearly demonstrate that engineers perform their duties to improve the state of humankind. This function is sometimes obscured when the projects are more detached from the customer.

This paper discusses how these community-based projects were undertaken. It provides the design details of each cycle, as well as additional outreach activities embraced by the student design team. A template is provided to assist other programs in tackling similar endeavors.

Background The capstone design experience in the mechanical engineering program at Michigan State University is achieved through the course ME 481, Mechanical Engineering Design Projects. This course utilizes industrially sponsored design projects for which the company makes both a financial investment ($3500) and a personnel investment (a staff engineer is assigned to the project). A portion of the financial investment ($600) provides an operating budget for the design team. The remaining funds are used to cover the cost of the design program, for which a significant portion is the cost to put on the end of semester design day. Each team of four students works on the project for the semester under the supervision of a faculty member. During the semester the team makes off-campus oral presentations to the industrial sponsor and provides them with written progress reports. A final oral presentation is made at the department's end-of-semester design day and a final written report is provided to the sponsor. Some projects require the construction of prototypes, and additional funds (beyond the $3500) are provided by the company to cover the development costs. Each year about 160 students enroll in the course, requiring the acquisition of nearly forty design projects, and the projects are

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Thompson, B., & Somerton, C. (2002, June), Community Outreach For Capstone Design: The Cycle Projects Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11292

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