Mark Dougherty,Jeremiah Davis,David Blersch,Oladiran Fasina,Steven Taylor 2016-08-24 04:14:14
Auburn University’s Biosystems Engineering program is home to 156 undergraduate and 25 graduate students. Undergraduate students are enrolled in three curricula: biosystems (104 students), ecological (43 students), and forest engineering (9 students). Class size of the senior design Capstone sequence has grown steadily from 15 students in 2011 to 40 registered for 2017. Capstone design teams are formed during the fall semester during a two-credit Professional Development class. This article highlights two Capstone design projects from spring 2016 that represent biological engineering and traditional agricultural engineering designs: 3D printing for new biofilter media (http://aoebioworks.weebly.com) and an automated poultry feed bin gate (http://hlh0017.wix.com/poultry-bin-gate). Holly Haber, a member of the feed bin gate team, wrote at the end of her class experience, “I am proud of the final product we produced through this senior design project. We were able to meet all of our design objectives as well as build a functioning prototype. The senior design project experience gave me an insight into what working as an engineer will be like.” A similar sense of accomplishment was echoed by 3D printing design team member Ann Nunnelley in her e-portfolio reflection: “Involvement in this design process not only exposed me to additive manufacturing, but also gave me valuable experience working with an interdisciplinary engineering team. I am grateful to have been part of this design team and am proud of the final result!” Although not all project clients act as financial sponsors, all student design teams provide a professional engineering design service to their client. During class, the students submit weekly work logs, monthly oral and written updates, design journals, and confidential team peer evaluations. In addition to a final report and presentation, students provide a proposal report and presentation, pre-final drawing submittals, a poster presentation, and participate in the College of Engineering E-day recruiting event. Trey Colley, a member of the feed bin gate team, emphasized problem-solving as a key skill needed in his future engineering career: “The senior design project has provided an element of our educational experience I have not experienced before. Previously, my skills at problem solving and my ability to cram slide notes helped me in the lower-level classes; however, this is the first time the whole process has been put together.” Holly Haber reflected on the importance of the soft skills she learned: “During this design process, in addition to my technical knowledge, I have developed my soft skills. Not only has my design team been collaborating with our peers and faculty in the department, we also worked with our industry client. Learning to write memos and provide constant updates on the progress of our project to all of these groups is something new that we have not had to do in previous classes. The importance of being able to communicate the design process, both orally and written, is a crucial skill that will benefit any engineer.” For us, as faculty instructors and project mentors, one of the most rewarding aspects of the Capstone class is the positive energy and outlook of the graduating engineers. Recent graduate Brock Daughtry reflects this sense of accomplishment and excitement as he looks ahead to a fulfilling engineering career: “This class required almost weekly informal presentations on the development of our project and also required formal presentations to our clients, professors, and other professionals. Being a part of the development of this project has greatly prepared me for my professional career. I’m a much better team member now than when we started this project, and I know this skill will help me tremendously in my career” Holly Haber summed up some of the benefits of the Capstone experience: “Engineering Design for Biosystems takes the technical concepts used in our engineering discipline and forces application to real-life problems. Not only have I learned a large amount about biosystems engineering principles and regulations through this Capstone course, I have also expanded my knowledge in other engineering disciplines. The senior design process has built on concepts learned in previous courses and taken them one step further by applying them to meet specific objectives. For example, during the design process, my team used prior knowledge and expanded on it to compute the force needed to open and close feed bin gates in order to specify a linear actuator to meet this force requirement.” No more could be hoped for than to have our graduating engineers gain a level of confidence in their future profession, as implied by Holly Haber at the beginning of this article, “The senior design project experience gave me an insight into what working as an engineer will be like.”
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