Luke Reese 2016-08-24 04:11:48
How “real” can a Capstone project be? The MSU Biosystems Engineering (BE) Capstone design program is a sequence of two courses (three credits each): BE 485 Biosystems Design Techniques is taught in the fall, and BE 487 Biosystems Design Project is taught in the spring. The projects are openended, relevant, real-world challenges with real constraints, providing students unique, teambased problem-solving experiences. Each team has three to four members, a project sponsor who serves as a client, faculty advisors, and an industrial guidance and evaluation panel. Projects are solicited from industry in midsummer for a fall start, vetted, and selected by BE faculty using the following criteria: • Requires a substantial amount of design. • Integrates science with engineering. • Relates to macro- and/or microbiology. • Requires a systems approach. • Requires understanding of design impacts on society and the environment. • Involves data analysis and the use of statistics. • Considers the efficiency of the solution as measured by economic analysis. • Requests funding from industry (direct and/or in-kind) to support project expenses and associated costs to improve and maintain the Capstone design experience. • Matches the program emphases and concentrations (food, ecosystems, bioenergy, and/or biomedical). • Requires a sponsor to serve as a client with realistic demands, expectations, and constraints. • Requires a BE faculty advisor with the appropriate expertise to support the project. BE 485 instructors assign teams within the first two weeks of the fall semester. From the project list, students individually submit their top three choices with their rationale and the qualifications they would bring to the projects through a formal cover letter and résumé. The students also submit a self-rated competency evaluation of 11 core skills and can voluntarily select one peer they desire to work with and one peer they prefer not to work with. Instructors form design teams based on student interest, prior experience, skills needed for the projects, diversity and balance of skill sets, and potential confidentiality or conflict-of-interest issues. Thereafter, necessary background materials are provided on the problem, as well as non-disclosure agreements, design alternatives, and instruction in project management, technical writing, and elements of effective presentations. The semester culminates with a preliminary design report that is approved to move forward to the spring for final design, possible prototyping, possible modeling/testing, optimizing, and full-scale economic analysis. Teams present their designs to the full BE faculty, who evaluate the project outcomes (for a portion of the course grade) and provide suggestions for finalizing the design. Through several iterative project reviews by instructors, faculty advisors, the faculty jury, and the client, feedback on the technical content is incorporated into a 90% project completion report that is submitted to an industry evaluator panel (two to four practicing professionals, with at least one P.E. preferred for each panel). BE 487 culminates with a public BE Design Showcase in April, where the evaluator panels, who received the project completion report two weeks in advance, spend one hour with their assigned teams discussing the designs and providing feedback and a grade. The teams must also present publically and in a poster session to other diverse audiences for critique before submitting a final report to their clients. BE 485 and 487 emphasize significant contact with industry representatives. Industry representatives and non-instructors contribute approximately 10% of the grade for each course. Teams and industry interact through project introductions, required client meetings, industry advisory board interactions (including formal meetings, required communications, and final report critique), on-site visits (for evaluation, measurement, prototyping, and testing), public presentations, and the poster session. Is a Capstone project “real”? Team member Jackie Thelen put it this way: “I put over 500 hours into this project alone. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to a real project outside my actual industry co-op experience, and I think it will be one of the most valuable experiences in my professional career for a long time to come.” How “real”? Chris Taylor’s senior design project turned into a career opportunity, as he was hired by the client, JBT Corporation, upon graduation in 2015. The same can be said for 2016 graduates David Olson and Nicholas Niedermaier, who were hired from the JBT Capstone team, too. “JBT Corporation is a leading equipment solutions provider to food processors globally. JBT and MSU BE have primarily interfaced with engineers at our Tech Center in Sandusky, Ohio, which houses full-scale industrial ovens, freezers, fryers, portioning, and coating equipment for continuous processing. JBT provides spiral, impingement, fluidized bed, and contact chilling and freezing of meat, seafood, poultry, ready-to-eat meals, fruits, vegetables, and bakery products; cooking, frying, and coating processing solutions for poultry, meat, seafood, vegetable, and bakery products; and intelligent slicing, trimming, and portioning of red meat, pork, fish, and poultry. Several of the JBT-sponsored design projects have included increasing the cooling rate or mixing performance of batter mixers, exploring hygiene improvements related to belt washer and dryer technologies for spiral freezers, and exploring sustainable alternatives to the disposable polyethylene film used on film and plate contact freezers. By mentoring and financially supporting Senior Design students and their projects, JBT gets direct contact with talented BE graduates for possible recruitment. Participation on the BE Industry Advisory Board allows JBT to provide relevant feedback based on industry needs within food processing.” ―Andrew Knowles JBT Sales Support Manager
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