Guidelines for Participants
This set of guidelines has the purpose of coordinating communications and actions among the participants in “capstone” design projects at the Ingram School of Engineering. A capstone design project, typically undertaken during the senior year, is intended to be a culminating design experience that draws on knowledge and skills acquired during a student’s entire undergraduate career. Project sponsors outside the University can enhance the capstone project experience by acting both as potential customers for the project and as project advisors. For these reasons, we encourage outside entities such as companies, federal and state agencies, and other engineering organizations to act as sponsors for capstone design projects.
In order for sponsorships to proceed smoothly and so that all participants have a clear understanding of their privileges and responsibilities, we encourage observation of the following guidelines, which are organized by role.
The members of the Ingram School of Engineering look forward to your participation in a capstone design project, and hope that these guidelines have answered most of your questions about your role.
- Clearly define your project.
Start with the "New Project Idea" form, which alerts faculty members to your project concept. The next step will involve providing documentation and/or meeting with students to understand the essentials of your project. If the instructor concludes that the project is suitable in scope and difficulty for a capstone design project, this will be used to develop a project assigned to a student team.
Please note that projects must be defined well in advance of the beginning of each semester.
- Identify a single contact person who will interface with students and instructors.
While we hope that more than one person at the sponsoring organization will be involved in the sponsored project at some level, we ask that one contact person be identified as such and make himself or herself available to both students and instructors within reasonable time constraints. The contact person will serve as a liaison between the Ingram School and the sponsoring organization. Should other responsibilities or organizational changes prevent the contact person from continuing in that role, the sponsoring organization will make its best effort to identify another suitable contact person to serve until the project’s conclusion. Projects occupy either one or two academic semesters, so a project that begins in January can last until the following December.
- Maintain reasonable demands and expectations.
Sponsors are within their rights to request reports, periodic conference calls, and (when possible) meetings with students and instructors concerning the project. Sponsors are requested to defer to the judgement of the instructor in these matters. In turn, the instructor commits to evaluating, with a grade, responses of the students to reasonable requests of the sponsor. Not all projects are successful, but students often learn as much from a failure as a success. All projects are undertaken on a best-effort basis, and while instructors will do what they can to ensure successful projects, the success of a project depends ultimately on the students.
- Select appropriate projects and student team assignments.
Projects proposed by sponsors will inevitably vary in difficulty. While most instructors allow some degree of choice by the students in the selection of projects, the availability of both projects and students to complete them is limited. Instructors can increase the chances of successful projects by making sure each student team is reasonably well matched with the project to which the team is assigned.
- Keep lines of communication open between sponsors and students.
Sponsorship of a project is most fruitful when, in addition to supplying the project idea, sponsors become involved in guiding and assisting students working on the project. Instructors can assist in this process by assessing the quality of interaction between the students and sponsor as part of the course grade.
- Provide boots-on-the-ground supervision.
Instructors are best situated to monitor day-to-day progress of capstone projects, and can provide extra encouragement to lagging teams or teams that get off track.
- Be professional in interactions with the sponsor.
In any verbal or written communication with the sponsor, students will be representing the University and possibly influencing their future careers, either positively or negatively. Speaking and writing in a mature, professional manner is always important, but especially so when dealing with outside entities such as a capstone design project sponsor.
- Treat sponsor requests as seriously as instructor requests.
Part of the project grade will depend on how well students respond to sponsor requests. Students should be present at scheduled meetings (in-person or phone) with the sponsor, should respond to specific sponsor requests and suggestions promptly, and should otherwise behave toward the sponsor with decorum and gratitude for their sponsorship.
- Ask the sponsor for help or advice when appropriate.
While students are expected to use their own knowledge and skills to complete their capstone design project, sponsors often have specialized resources that can help. Students should feel free to request special assistance from the sponsor to clarify project goals or assist in areas where the sponsor has specialized knowledge or resources