Robert Todd had long heard his colleagues complain about newly graduated engineers: “They always went for the high-tech solutions versus simple ones, they didn’t want to get their hands dirty, they lacked an understanding of manufacturing processes, and they needed to improve their communication skills.”
What engineering students needed was just what they didn’t have—experience. In order to provide the students that much needed experience, in the fall of 1990 Robert H. Todd, Carl D. Sorensen, and Spencer P. Magleby founded BYU’s Capstone program.
Capstone is an innovative, two-semester course that brings together seniors in mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering technology, electrical engineering, and computer engineering, as well as students from other disciplines such as statistics, business, and industrial design.
The students are first divided into teams of about 5-6 students and assigned a faculty member or professional engineer as a coach. They are then given a company-sponsored project to complete. Implementing fundamentals of product development, teams use a structured approach in completing their projects. Throughout the two semesters, the teams work with the company to solve the project’s engineering design problems, build prototypes, test hardware to specs, provide detailed drawings, and deliver a workable prototype to the industry sponsor.
Each team member allocates eight hours per week for Capstone. Teams are supervised by one faculty coach, two instructors, and one external relations manager and maintain close contact with a liaison from the sponsoring company. At the completion of the project, the sponsoring organization receives all documentation and prototypes and maintains all intellectual property rights.
The program is beneficial to both the students and the companies who sponsor them. The companies get new, fresh thinking to solve their engineering problems, and the students get the chance to put their engineering skills to practical, real-world use.
In 1990 Capstone started with just four industry-sponsored projects, three faculty coaches, and 22 students. Since then, the program has expanded to more than 30 projects each year. with 28 faculty coaches and nearly 200 students working on projects from prominent companies all across the United States (as well as overseas). Beginning in Fall 2017, seniors from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will be participating in Capstone. This expansion will enable Capstone to engage nearly 50 projects, involving almost 300 students, along with additional faculty coaches.
In addition to overwhelming positive response from sponsor companies, the track record of successful projects has been very good. Repeat rate for sponsors is between 60 and 70 percent. A sample of repeat project sponsors includes: ATK, BD Medical, Boeing, Autoliv, L-3 Communications Systems-West, Burr Oak Tool, Union Pacific Railroad, Hewlett Packard, and John Deere.
Capstone teams have completed 769 projects to date.
"The Capstone class was the best class I had in teaching me how to apply my engineering classes to the problems and projects of the real world."
"If I had not taken Capstone, I would not have the job I have today. I do Capstone everyday."
Brigham Young University - Provo | Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Capstone Webmaster, Department of Mechanical Engineering, BYU, Provo, UT 84602 - (801) 422-8657 Address/Directions