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National Engineers Week: Senior Capstone Design

February 21, 2013

The National Engineers Week Foundation’s signature program, Engineers Week celebrates the positive contributions engineers make to society and is a catalyst for outreach across the country to kids and adults alike.  Engineers Week is part of many corporate and government cultures and is celebrated in every U.S. engineering college campus.

In recognition of National Engineers Week, we recognize the dedication of the students, faculty, staff and sponsors who make the senior capstone design course possible. 

All engineering and computer science undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering and Applied Science have received ABET accreditation.  “ABET is recognized as the worldwide leader in assuring quality and stimulating innovation in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology education [].”  Accreditation is the primary mechanism to insure students are learning what is required by industry within a specified educational environment.  It also insures that all programs enjoy an active process of continuous improvement. 

A key ABET requirement is “ Students must be prepared for engineering practice through a curriculum culminating in a major design experience based on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier course work and incorporating appropriate engineering standards and multiple realistic constraints.1  While this is certainly important, the capstone design experience is so much more than this.  A wise department head would attend the first meeting of senior design and pose the following question to the students, “Who is an engineer and ready to go to work?”  Invariably, no one raised their hand or responded.  He followed up with other questions, “When will you become an engineer?”  “What course are you waiting for?”  In the ensuing discussion, he pointed out that time after time faculty have witnessed a transformation in students during the senior design process.  They start senior design as students and during the course of their project work, periodic reports, design reviews and oral presentations they are transformed into engineers and computer scientists. 

On a personal note, I’ve taught senior design at two different universities, multiple times.  I feel comfortable in speaking for my fellow senior design instructors in saying that you will not find a more challenging yet satisfying course to instruct.

On December 6, the College hosted the Senior Design Symposium.  The symposium showcased the hard work of over 125 College of Engineering and Applied Science students and 10 faculty on 33 different projects.  This was an opportunity for students to showcase their design talent to family, friends, faculty and staff.  It is important to note that many of these projects were a direct service to the community, Wyoming or specific engineering disciplines.  A program of the symposium is available at: (link).  A key aspect of the symposium is the participation of project judges, many from Wyoming industry and department advisor boards.  It is also important to recognize and thank the gracious and ongoing financial contributions of Rocky Mountain Power and the Volpi Cupal Fund in support of the senior design program.

Preparations are already in progress for the Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day scheduled for April 27, 2013. This is the Spring venue for senior design student presentations. 


Steve Barrett
Associate Dean for Academic Programs
College of Engineering and Applied Science


CRITERIA FOR ACCREDITING ENGINEERING PROGRAMS:  Effective for Reviews During the 2012-2013 Accreditation Cycle, ABET, October 29, 2011.

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