Asee peer logo

Project Based Capstone Design Projects Amidst Covid-19 Restrictions

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Experiences: Teaching in a Pandemic

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Stephen Andrew Wilkerson P.E. York College of Pennsylvania

visit author page

Stephen Wilkerson ( received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1990 in Mechanical Engineering. His Thesis and initial work was on underwater explosion bubble dynamics and ship and submarine whipping. After graduation he took a position with the US Army where he has been ever since. For the first decade with the Army he worked on notable programs to include the M829A1 and A2 that were first of a kind composite saboted munition. His travels have taken him to Los Alamos where he worked on modeling the transient dynamic attributes of Kinetic Energy munitions during initial launch. Afterwards he was selected for the exchange scientist program and spent a summer working for DASA Aerospace in Wedel, Germany 1993. His initial research also made a major contribution to the M1A1 barrel reshape initiative that began in 1995. Shortly afterwards he was selected for a 1 year appointment to the United States Military Academy West Point where he taught Mathematics. Following these accomplishments he worked on the SADARM fire and forget projectile that was finally used in the second gulf war.
Since that time, circa 2002, his studies have focused on unmanned systems both air and ground. His team deployed a bomb finding robot named the LynchBot to Iraq late in 2004 and then again in 2006 deployed about a dozen more improved LynchBots to Iraq. His team also assisted in the deployment of 84 TACMAV systems in 2005. Around that time he volunteered as a science advisor and worked at the Rapid Equipping Force during the summer of 2005 where he was exposed to a number of unmanned systems technologies. His initial group composed of about 6 S&T grew to nearly 30 between 2003 and 2010 as he transitioned from a Branch head to an acting Division Chief. In 2010-2012 he again was selected to teach Mathematics at the United States Military Academy West Point. Upon returning to ARL's Vehicle Technology Directorate from West Point he has continued his research on unmanned systems under ARL's Campaign for Maneuver as the Associate Director of Special Programs. Throughout his career he has continued to teach at a variety of colleges and universities. For the last 4 years he has been a part time instructor and collaborator with researchers at the University of Maryland Baltimore County ( He is currently an Assistant Professor at York College PA.

visit author page


Stephen Andrew Gadsden University of Guelph

visit author page

Andrew completed his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and Management (Business) at McMaster University. He completed his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at McMaster in the area of estimation theory with applications to mechatronics and aerospace systems. Andrew worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Mechatronics and Hybrid Technology (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). He also worked as a Project Manager in the pharmaceutical industry (Apotex Inc.) for about three years. Before joining the University of Guelph, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Andrew worked with a number of colleagues in NASA, the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). He is an elected Fellow of ASME, is a Senior Member of IEEE, and is a Professional Engineer of Ontario. Andrew is an Associate Editor for the International Journal of Robotics and Automation and is a reviewer for a number of ASME and IEEE journals and international conferences.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Project Based Capstone Design Projects Amidst Covid-19 Restrictions

During the past 2 semesters we have had unprecedented changes and restrictions on how college courses are taught. In particular courses with labs and hands on learning activities have been radically affected. This paper examines how faculty and students used these unusual events as an opportunity for creativity and innovation in their approaches. We discuss what was tried, what worked, and what did not while trying to preserve course objectives and ABET goals. In the spring of 2020, most schools went from in class instruction to online in about one week. For Project Based Learning (PBL) courses like capstone this meant leaving projects half built and other projects completely unfinished. In particular our school has capstone design projects like Baja and Formula and other community-based initiatives that include finished products. We look at primarily community-based projects and discuss what was required versus what was actually done. The Spring represented the end of a one-year capstone program and the summer represented the beginning of the next years program. The spring semester was only 1/3 complete when the interruption occurred whereas the summer semester was done with online classes from the beginning. Both semesters posed a new set of challenges. In this study we look at the effects of the Covid-19 restrictions on capstone design projects that included multispectral analysis of farmer crops, building and designing drone aircraft and a radio control telescope project in a public park. These projects rely heavily on student’s working together and having access to the schools considerable manufacturing abilities. Students were immediately denied access to school facilities and their ongoing work. Coping with these issues and trying to continue progress on the projects are addressed in this paper.

Wilkerson, S. A., & Gadsden, S. A. (2021, July), Project Based Capstone Design Projects Amidst Covid-19 Restrictions Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37609

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: © 2021 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