One of the telltale signs of the approaching end to the academic year is the sight of groups of senior students bearing down on completing their design projects. Regular laboratory courses give way to specialized investigations using high-powered equipment, the computer lab is overrun by anxious clusters of teams preparing their PowerPoint slides, and classrooms are populated in evening hours as dry runs of presentations are rehearsed. All this activity is the fruit of the “capstone” concept in engineering and computer science education, when graduating seniors must demonstrate that they can apply the principles they learned during their SEAS undergraduate coursework to a real-world problem needing a technical solution.
In the Department of Engineering, the public demonstration of that achievement occurs on Senior Design Day, which is on May 8th this year, when about 20 teams will present their projects in a marathon session lasting from 9 am to after 5 pm. Each team gets about 20 minutes to show forth not only their technical work, but also their communication skills, and their poise in answering questions from an audience of faculty, students, and outside professionals. A sampling of some of the titles from this year’s program includes “Ultrasonic Assessment of the Achilles Tendon” and “Optimization of Substrate Stiffness and Surface Topography for Tissue Engineering” from bioengineering students, “Improving an Egyptian Clothing Manufacturer” and “Redesign of a Pre-K Classroom” from industrial students, “Experimental Investigation on the Effects of Scuffing a Baseball” and “Water Pump for a Third World Country” from mechanical students, and “Experimental Set-Up for Measuring Upwelling Effect on Bearing Capacity of Non-Cohesive Soils” and “Analysis and Design of a Concrete Building” from civil students.
In the Department of Computer Science, the venue for student work is the Senior Showcase, which is being held on May 7th this year from 4 pm to 6 pm, where students display their projects on large posters, and are available to answer questions from faculty and outside professionals, who then vote on the best poster presentation, with a Dean’s Prize going to the winner. Topics being addressed this year include the development of the software for a device designed to counter the propagation of an invasive insect species which attacks citrus trees, a new app for sharing collages of photos, and a new more user-friendly Blackboard style app.
Having worked with many students over the years on these types of projects, I am well aware of how much effort they put into this culminating educational experience. We as faculty see the intellectual and personal growth of these students over their years here in SEAS, students who are now on the threshold of their careers in the sciences and engineering, and we applaud them for their success in getting to where they are now, and look forward to hearing from them as successful alumni.