The regional Bachelor of Engineering degree with the Multidisciplinary Engineering Design (MDE) option culminates in a yearlong capstone project, where teams of students partner with an organization or startup to design a product, process, or service.
Sponsors report many benefits from their involvement with Penn State’s capstone design courses, including:
- Low-risk, low-cost investment with high potential return on investment
- Work on "back burner" projects and help refine ideas
- Help start-up and small companies with prototyping and development work (while fleshing out a business plan through collaboration with a team of business students)
- Direct access to some of the best Penn State students
- Newly hired employees (i.e., Penn State students) are better trained as a result
- Company liaison overseeing the project gains invaluable project management experience
- Increase brand awareness among Penn State students and faculty
- Entry point (and guide) into the Penn State network
- Network with other companies through related events and cross-promotions
- Opportunity to give back to the University and influence the education and careers of many students
Depending on the nature of the project, the deliverables may include any or all of the following:
- Technical reports (concept, preliminary, detail)
- Feasibility studies, engineering analyses
- Patent searches, competitive benchmarking
- Engineering drawings and specifications
- Prototypes and preliminary hardware
- Computer programs, simulation models, data
- Manufacturing or service delivery process plans
- Presentations, animations, videos, demonstrations
- Financial and marketing analyses, business plans
- Final technical report, poster, and one-page summary
Each project will typically involve a team of 3–5 students over two 15-week semesters. Considering that they will also be taking other courses at the same time, this equates to approximately 400 person hours of effort devoted to the project. Results from student teams are highly dependent on the nature of the project, the innate team capabilities, the amount of client interaction and support, and many other variables. No guarantees can be made, other than the students will give it their best effort.
Sponsor involvement is essential to the success of the capstone project and program. Sponsors are expected to identify an industry liaison to serve as the team's point-of-contact for the project for the semester. This liaison provides the domain expertise for the project, fielding questions from the team while also:
- Attending the project kick-off meeting (1st week of semester)
- Providing additional details beyond the one-page project description
- Facilitating visits from the project team (2nd–3rd week of semester, later as needed)
- Interacting regularly with the team via tele/video-conferences, weekly memos, etc.
- Reviewing reports and providing feedback from an industry point of view
- Evaluating the students' performance (part of the final grade)
- Attending the design showcase (last week of the semester)
- Demanding constant professionalism and a high level of performance from the students
The ideal project entails the design of a product, process, or service. It should involve students in identifying requirements and specifications. It should challenge students’ technical analysis, financial justification, and prototyping skills. Open ended problems are of more educational value than “design this, this way” projects. This is an excellent opportunity, for a minimal investment, to investigate the potential of that "back-burner" idea which has been sitting on your desk. Projects need to have a strong design component with clear, well-defined objectives to provide the students with an initial starting point and allow them to keep focused. The required project work must be sufficient such that it may be handled within two semesters (15 weeks each).
To support project expenses, sponsors typically make a donation of $3000 to Penn State Great Valley. Some projects may incur additional expenses depending on a sponsor's needs for Intellectual Property and Confidentiality. Once a team has been formed and starts working on the project, donations can be submitted as a tax-deductible contribution to Penn State. Additional expenses to support the program are provided by the Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, Penn State Abington, and Penn State Brandywine.
Each team is provided with a budget of $1000 from this donation, which they can use for travel and to buy materials and supplies for their project. Meanwhile, $500 of the donation helps cover the costs of events, mailings, etc., and the remaining $1500 goes back to the department that supervises the project during the semester to help support instructional costs as well as the program’s facilities.
According to Penn State policy IPG02, undergraduate students own any intellectual property that they may develop as part of a course project; however, they can sign over their intellectual property rights to a sponsor if requested. Sponsors may request ownership rights of all intellectual property that is developed by the students during the course of the project for an additional donation of $500 to help support our administration expenses. Projects in this category require students to assign their intellectual property rights to the sponsor. In addition, sponsors who have not yet filed a patent, and wish to avoid public disclosure of their invention, are highly advised to also request the confidentiality agreement for their project. Sponsors should also be aware that the Design Showcase is open to the public, which may have implications on patent filing.
In order to protect their competitive positions, sponsors may require each team member to sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition for working on their project, for an additional donation of $500 to help support our administration expenses. Penn State’s Confidential Information Disclosure Agreement obliges the students to observe due diligence in protecting the confidentiality of company-provided information (data, drawings, design intent, etc.). Sponsors who have not yet filed a patent, and wish to avoid public disclosure of an invention, are advised to select this provision.
How to Get Involved
If you're interested in partnering with Penn State's Bachelor of Engineering degree with the Multidisciplinary Engineering Design (MDE) option for a capstone project, please complete the online form.