Virginia Tech®home

Senior Design Expo

Choosing a project

Senior design is a 2-semester six-credit hour course sequence, which translates to a required 10 hours of work per student/per week outside of the classroom for 30 weeks.  If you consider a typical team of five students and the 30 weeks that they are enrolled in the class, you can expect 1350 hours of effort towards your project during the academic year.  Many students work significantly more hours toward the end of the academic year as they take ownership of the project.

Since the project spans two academic semesters (August — May), it is best to come up with a problem that is important to the company, but not urgent for the scope of the project.  Ideally, product development projects or machine design projects are sought; those that require a broad engineering skill-set along with creativity and business sense.  Students will be required to write three reports and make four presentations with feedback from the client, faculty advisor and industry panel guiding their progress.  A final poster event is also required where student teams, faculty, and industry members celebrate, showcase and evaluate accomplishments.

In the CREATE program students can use funds to travel to the client site for visits and plant tours. Client visits to campus are encouraged for the mid-term and final presentations and for other major milestones.  Students will meet weekly with their faculty advisor and graduate teaching assistant (GTA), guiding them in the engineering design process.  During these meetings, an engineering liaison from the company will be asked to join via telecon or in person so that the company’s perspective is represented.  Generally, the closer the client is located to the Blacksburg campus, the more frequent, but likely shorter the visits. More distant clients can expect longer but less frequent visits. Students are taught the value of face-to-face contact with clients, whether the project demands intensive on-site activity or not. As a rough guideline, you should consider the following minimum expectations. For more distant projects that involve air travel, the arrangements are subject to your budget:

In terms of technical areas your project might cover, the list below is a good starting point for the types of projects we seek.  One of the novel aspects of the CREATE program is that it encourages multidisciplinary projects, where engineering students from other disciplines are enrolled and receive senior design credit through their participation in the Mechanical Engineering program.  This can include students from various disciplines such as Materials Engineering, Engineering Science and Mechanics, Electrical Engineering and Civil Engineering.

Selecting a Team

Students individually can explore the senior design projects that are available through a course enrollment website, and select their top choices, submit a resume for review and are matched with a project team. In this sense, your project will be competing with all other senior design projects for an interested group of students.  A maximum enrollment limit is set by mutual agreement between the faculty advisor and client (usually 5 – 8 students).  In the submission form, you can specify particular requirements. The most common requirement is US Citizenship in the case of sensitive projects. Of course, the more requirements you place on a team’s make- up, the less likely it is that a team will meet the requirements. All projects must have all three design elements: DESIGN, BUILD & TEST.

ME Skill and Knowledge Areas

  • Automation
  • Autonomous systems
  • Biomechanics, biological systems engineering
  • Design for assembly / disassembly
  • Design for manufacture
  • Dynamics and controls
  • Energy production and delivery
  • Ergonomics or human factors engineering
  • Green engineering
  •  Human-computer interaction
  • Human-systems integration
  • Material handling
  • Product design or development
  • Robotics
  • Structural design
  • System design or redesign
  • Systems Engineering
  • Transportation technologies
  • Thermal and fluid systems
  • Turbomachinery design

Evaluating the Project Team

The coordinator of the capstone program will periodically prompt you for evaluations of the team. You will be involved in grading since; after all, you are the customer. Quick and easy standardized forms will be provided. There are fixed milestones such as developing customer requirements, monthly progress reports and a final report, but you can request more frequent updates from the team, including in-house briefings. While the coordinator will prompt you for feedback, you certainly don’t need to wait if a concern or conflict arises. Contact the coordinator at any time should such concerns or questions emerge. For major deliverables, the client (customer satisfaction), advisor (technical), and a review panel (normalization) provide input for grading.  In addition to reports and presentations, the students will construct a working prototype that must be demonstrated.

End of Semester Presentations

The CREATE affiliates are invited to participate in the presentations at the end of the Fall and Spring Semesters, the poster event showcase at the end of the Spring semester, and will have a chance to attend other senior design presentations as well.  The days dedicated to the final presentations and poster showcase also provide companies an opportunity to network with their Affiliate partners as well as with other student design teams.  This is a great opportunity to explore the depth of research projects that are possible at VT, with faculty and graduate students on hand to answer questions.