Asee peer logo

Experiences Of Using Formula Sae As A Capstone Design Project

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Capstone Design Projects

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.555.1 - 15.555.22



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jennifer Dawson York College of Pennsylvania

visit author page

Dr. Jennifer Bower Dawson is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at York College of Pennsylvania where she teaches courses in Machine Design, Controls, and Capstone Design. She earned her MS and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University where she worked on the design and testing of spacecraft hardware for Satellite Test of the Equivalence Principle. Her academic interests include robotics, sensor design, precision engineering, and service learning in engineering education.

visit author page


Stephen Kuchnicki York College of Pennsylvania

visit author page

Dr. Stephen Kuchnicki is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at York College of Pennsylvania. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Rutgers University, specializing in computational modeling of dynamic deformations in solids. His areas of technical expertise include solid mechanics, crystal plasticity, vibration, and fluid-structure interaction. He received his PhD from Rutgers University in 2001.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Experiences of Using Formula SAE as a Capstone Design Project


Capstone Design courses are, by their nature, intended to test the abilities students have gained over their college careers and to provide a design experience that simulates real-world engineering. An important factor in giving students a valuable Capstone Design experience is the selection of an appropriate project. A good project for this purpose should have appropriate technical rigor and allow students to focus as much as possible on engineering design rather than on logistical activities like fundraising. Further, the work done by students in the course should be assessable, both for the purposes of accreditation and for assignment of grades. Additionally, the deadlines imposed must be appropriate, and evaluation criteria need to be established.

One solution for many of the project planning aspects of Capstone Design is a student engineering competition, many of which are sponsored by professional societies. The Mechanical Engineering program at York College of Pennsylvania has been using Formula SAE® as a project since 2007, with one or both authors advising the project since 2008. We discuss the pros and cons of such a project as a Capstone Design experience, including its technical merits and scope; how it lends itself to assessment of course outcomes and of student work; time spent on fundraising rather than on design; the effect of imposing a one-year design cycle on this project, when other schools have a multi-year cycle; keeping students focused on the educational rather than competitive aspects of the project; and dealing with conflicts that arise due to the externally-imposed deadlines. We find that such a project is an attractive option for a small program, with its benefits outweighing its downsides. We also give some suggestions for a program that may be considering using this particular project for Capstone Design, including expectations of performance, building from one year to the next, and the limitations of FSAE in terms of assessing course or program objectives and student work.

1.0 Background

1.1 Capstone Design at York College of Pennsylvania

Under the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education, York College of Pennsylvania is a four-year, medium-sized private four-year institution with professions plus arts and sciences and some graduate coexistence.1 Mechanical engineering majors make-up about 3 annual graduates (about 20 students) and there are no graduate programs in engineering. York College of Pennsylvania has five full-time mechanical engineering faculty members.

There are a number of challenges in administering a successful Capstone Design program at schools like York College of Pennsylvania with small student and faculty populations. With

Dawson, J., & Kuchnicki, S. (2010, June), Experiences Of Using Formula Sae As A Capstone Design Project Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15685

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015