The ME Capstone Senior Design Program was officially started in August 2008 under the direction of then department chair Dr. Jonathan Wickert with Lecturer Jim Heise serving as the Design Projects Coordinator. The program was partially funded and supported by the College of Engineering Extension Center for Industrial Research And Service (CIRAS) under the guidance of Director Ron Cox.
The focus of the program is to provide Mechanical Engineering seniors enrolled in capstone senior design courses ME415 (and later ME466) with the opportunity to work on industry-sponsored projects and communicate with practicing engineers from the sponsoring companies. The inclusion of sponsored projects from industry aligns perfectly with Iowa State University’s mission as a Land Grant University. By providing the access to engineering students in a classroom setting the program can assist in the economic expansion of manufacturers in the state of Iowa. In addition, companies from outside the state as well as start-ups and non-profit organizations have been able to take advantage of the program.
CIRAS reported for the 2012 academic year that the estimated economic impact for the state was determined to be approximately $17M for 52 capstone projects in the College of Engineering, half of those teams were in the Department of Mechanical Engineering alone. A typical capstone project will involve two senior design teams of 5 students each. The typical project will involve approximately 500 man-hours of vested time per team. If a labor cost of $100/hr were applied per man-hour this would mean each project is providing the sponsor with an equivalent effort worth of $100k for an requested support of $4000 (for Iowa manufacturers) or $6000 (for out-of-state industries). If the project results in a revenue benefit or cost savings this will add significantly to the return in investment. The sponsor gets to work directly with student teams providing them the opportunity to evaluate the individuals as potential employment prospects. Typical impacts of M E Capstone projects to sponsor companies range from $200k to over $2M depending on the project success.
The program started modestly with 8 in-state industry sponsors but has grown significantly over time. This is being driven by two factors – enrollment growth and increased awareness of the program benefits. Table 1 and Figures 1 through 3 reflect the program growth looking at course enrollment, number of projects enlisted and sponsor funding support commitments. Initial sponsor funding when CIRAS was supporting the program was $2500 for in-state manufactures and $5000 for out-of-state industry. That has since been increased to $4000 and $6000 respectively enabling the program to become self-sustaining and allowing CIRAS to withdraw its support funds and apply them elsewhere. The Department of Mechanical Engineering continues to monitor the program to insure its sustainability. Increases in the operating hours for the Boyd Lab has increased the number of student technicians employed which has raised operating costs of the program significantly, however sponsorship levels have kept pace with these expenses thus far.
Past Project Sponsors
Advanced Analytics Technologies, Inc., Agri-Drain Corporation*, Ag Leader Technology*, ALMACO Inc.*, Altec Industries, American Power Quilting Systems, Inc.*, American Profol Inc., Armstrong Machine Company, Inc., Artistic Manufacturing*, B&M LLC, Boyt Harness Company*, Brite Belt, Inc., Brown Medical Industries, Cactus Jacks Originals, Camp Courageous of Iowa*, Caterpillar, Inc.*, CEI Equipment Company, Centro Incorporated, City of Ames, Cleaveland Aircraft Tool, Con-Agra Foods, Inc., Conductix-Wampfler, Inc., Cosma International of America*, Courage League Sports, Creative Composites, Ltd., Cross Over LLC, Curries Division of Assa Abloy, Cycle Country Powersports Accessories, D&B Agro*, Danfoss*, Delta Sports Products Inc., Diamondback, LLC*, Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Ltd., Dodgen Industries, Do-It Molds, Double HH Quality Products, ESCP Corporation*, Ewing Family Farms, Emerson Process Management* (Fisher Controls), Engineered Welding Company, Environmental Tillage Systems Inc., GOMACO Corporation*, Hach Inc.*, Hagie Manufacturing, Harrisvaccines, Inc., Harmony House of Iowa*, HEM Manufacturing, HON Company, HyCapacity, Inc., IDFI, Inc, Jancy Engineering, Inc.*, John Deere*, Johnson Helicopter Services, Kreg Tools, Inc.*, Legacy Manufacturing Inc.*, Lansing Housing Products, Inc., Light Ring Incorporated, Liguria Foods Inc., Linden Propeller Company, Link Manufacturing, Marshalltown Company*, Mobile Track Solutions, Inc., Molded Products, Inc.*, Monarch Materials Group, Nova Tech, Inc., Opportunity Village, P.M. Lattner Manufacturing Company*, Paragon International Inc.*, Pella Windows Inc.*, Pengo Corporation, Power Engineering and Manufacturing, Ltd.*, Pure Fishing*, R-Pipe, Inc., Rail-Way, Inc., Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, Rock Industries, Roeslein Alternative Energy, LLC*, Roto Rooter, Inc., Round 2, Inc., S and R Manufacturing, Snap-on Tools, Stellar Industries, SuperFlow Technologies Group, Systems Equipment Co., Terex Cranes*, TFI Lighting Products, Thombert, Inc.*, TPI Composites of Iowa*, TruArt Graphics, Inc., UL Newton*, Van Gorp Corporation, Veridian*, Vermeer Corporation*, Waters Hot, Inc., Weiler Products, West Des Moines Schools – Crossroads Park Elementary, Whirlpool Corporation, Wilson Trailer
* indicates multiple project sponsor