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Sponsor Role

Sponsors designate a liaison engineer to communicate with the team weekly. Liaison engineers monitor progress and keep the team focused on sponsor priorities.

Welcome to Capstone 

We are excited to partner with you this year in Capstone! Brigham Young University’s Capstone course (ME/ECE 475 & 476) has gained a reputation as one of the finest mentoring experiences for students of its type in the country. Your role as a Liaison is integral to each student’s educational success and helps ensure positive outcomes for the students and for the Capstone course. With your help, we know that this will be a successful year.  

Capstone Overview 

  1. The Capstone course is a two-semester educational program for senior students. This program enables cross-functional student teams from a variety of disciplines (Mechanical, Manufacturing, Electrical, and Computer Engineering) to work on real, industry-sponsored projects. 
  2. Each team is assigned a faculty coach and a liaison from the sponsoring company. Research indicates that students work harder and more creatively when their projects are authentic and of real consequence to a company. Over the two semesters, students are taught a structured product design process and are then given a chance to use this process to design and build real hardware. 
  3. The faculty coach and team develop a relationship with you as the liaison and come to appreciate the needs and wants of your company. Capstone is a course of study that includes class time, lab time, and independent work time as teams. Many activities that students participate in help them progress towards their goal of a solution for their project. 

Capstone teams will: 

  1. Create a team name and logo (optional)
  2. Maintain regular communication with the liaison engineer  
  3. Develop a Statement of Work 
  4. Gather information about market needs and conditions; determine required performance measures; articulate requirements for a desirable project (Opportunity development) 
  5. Evolve the product from a general idea to a high-quality system architecture to include a detailed definition of the product concept including subsystems (Concept Development) 
  6. Fully detail the concept’s subsystems and components (Subsystem Engineering) 
  7. Integrate the subsystems into a working system and test it (System Refinement) 
  8. Participate in design reviews 
  9. Formally present their work 
  10. Prepare a final documentation package consisting of all project information appropriate for the sponsor. This material will be delivered to the project sponsor at the conclusion of the project. 

Liaison Engineer Responsibilities 

As a liaison engineer, your support is vital to helping the student project teams succeed in the Capstone course. We do not want you to jump in and do the project, but we do want you to be an effective advocate for the wants and needs of your company. The responsibilities of the liaison engineer fall into five general areas:

  1. Monitoring project progress
  2. Maintaining a proper/effective relationship with faculty coach & team
  3. Evaluating project results
  4. Providing regular and honest feedback
  5. Frequently communicating project status to corporate sponsor
    **Good communication unites these responsibilities. Each of these responsibilities is discussed in a separate section below.

Monitoring Project Progress 

As the liaison engineer, you are the primary person at your company who monitors the progress of the project. We do not want you to consider the project a faculty project; it is and must remain a student project. Project progress can be effectively monitored by liaison engineers through contact with the Capstone team and through weekly status updates and conference calls. 

Contact with Capstone Team Leader

Teams have limited success when they work on their own without weekly contact with the project sponsor. This leads to surprises for both the company and the team. The company is surprised when the work of the team fails to meet their needs; the team is surprised when the company is disappointed with their efforts. Through consistent contact with the team, unanticipated problems can be avoided. For companies that are close to Brigham Young University (BYU), we recommend that you attend team meetings on occasion. Consider having some of these meetings take place at your company, if possible, where other personnel can be in attendance. At these meetings, we hope you will let the team leader be in charge, but we want to ensure that your needs and wants are brought up so that the team can work with you to meet them. For companies that are not located near BYU, we have web conferencing capabilities available for use by the team. This should allow the team to have meetings with you, even though you are at a remote location.

Where possible, it is helpful to have the team visit your facilities. For companies outside of Utah, we hope to arrange at least one trip. For local companies, we expect to have multiple trips. We hope to have teams make final presentations of their work at the sponsor site. Please keep in mind that all travel by the team outside the state of Utah is to be paid for by the sponsoring company, so these trips should be carefully planned between you and the team.

Contact with Capstone Team

In addition to your contact with the team, we suggest that you contact the team leader frequently. We will try to have the leader contact you weekly to update you on the project status and to get your feedback. If you are not getting weekly calls, feel free to call the team leader at your convenience. We will provide you contact information for each team member and the faculty coach.

During weekly calls with the team leader, you may feel free to discuss your thoughts of the team’s performance and give any advice to the team leader. However, in order to have a consistent voice between the company and faculty coach, it’s better to relay your advice to the team coach first.

Written Communication

Teams prepare a project update that is emailed weekly. These weekly updates will often have attachments including results relating to the project team’s work on the project to date. If you are dissatisfied with the progress of the team or feel they have a misunderstanding of your needs, an email from you that carefully lays out your best thinking on the problem a can be of great help to a team. Not only does it provide documentation that the team can read over and over again, but it also serves as a basis for future discussions with the team.

Maintaining an Effective Relationship with the Faculty Coach and Team

One of the most important things you can do to help the team succeed with the project is to maintain a good working relationship with the team’s coach. The coach has the strongest impact on the team. Your relationship with the coach will include meeting the coach, maintaining an appropriate project scope, and ongoing communication.

Meeting the Faculty Coach

Before the start of school, a faculty coach will be assigned to your project. Capstone will provide a copy of the Project Proposal that the company has filled out to give the coach more information about the project. Part of the information on this sheet will be your name. As soon as the coach receives this information, he/she will call you to discuss the project with you. You and the coach will then confirm the scope of the project or adjust it appropriately with instructor input.

Refining the Project Scope

As part of the contract, the Capstone Directors and an External Relations Manager will assess the project, based on the information provided in the Project Proposal and other communication with the sponsoring company. However, as you meet with the faculty coach and team, you will need to teach them more about the project and the scope that the company envisions.

A vital key to the success of the project is scoping the project properly. If the scope is too small, the team will not see the project as important and may not invest their full efforts. If the scope is too big, the company will expect the students to spend too much time on the project. The students will either be overburdened or will fail to do what the company expects, due to the time constraints. We invite you to work closely with the project team and faculty coach to ensure that the project scope is appropriate throughout the project duration. A Capstone External Relations Manager is also available to help resolve issues or concerns about project scope.

As a rough guideline, you should expect that the student team can spend 600 to 800 hours working on the project. Remember that students will be less efficient than practicing engineers, particularly early in the project. Remember also that the team will be expected to produce detailed designs in addition to hardware prototypes. As a rule of thumb, generally projects that require over 30 or so major components are too complex for a Capstone project.

If the scope of the project appears too large to the faculty coach and the team, they will negotiate with the company to see what can be done to reduce the scope. They may choose to take only certain subsystems and allow the company to take the rest, or they may agree to do system design and leave some details to the company. Whatever the final agreement, we hope you and the coach will do your best to make sure that the team will have the opportunity to design, build and test some kind of hardware.

Evaluating Project Results

Working towards tangible results for a real industrially sponsored project is important in meeting the educational outcomes of the Capstone course for our students. Your project is a key in helping facilitate student learning throughout the design process. To increase the likelihood for a successful project outcome, it is important that you review project results throughout the two semesters. Your review along with the team’s coach is important to help facilitate a positive outcome for the students and the project.

We encourage you to provide prompt and careful attention to the results provided by the project team. Please be sure that they are addressing your needs and if not, contact the faculty coach and team to develop a strategy to help the team accomplish its task.

Students value your opinion and are generally eager to address concerns that you may have. If you expect the team to produce quality deliverables on time, let them know this.

Providing Regular and Honest Feedback

Throughout the two semesters, you will be asked to provide feedback to Capstone. This will include two feedback surveys (near the end of Fall and Winter Semesters) to assess the performance of Capstone, the project team and the coach. We encourage you to provide honest feedback that will help Capstone know what it is going well and to identify potential areas for improvement. The two surveys will enable Capstone, the team, and the coach to make appropriate corrections to increase the potential for a successful project outcome. In addition to the surveys, you will have an opportunity to communicate on a regular basis with the project team. We encourage you to provide feedback throughout the project to help facilitate a positive outcome.

Keys to Success as a Liaison Engineer

In addition to the above responsibilities, we have some brief hints for finding success as a liaison engineer. These include the following:

  1. Support the design process as taught in the class. You may want to add your own strengths, but please don’t take off on an extremely different approach.
  2. Clearly communicate your perception of how the team is progressing with the faculty coach and team. If you are unhappy, let them know about it. If you feel like the team needs to hear some specific comments, tell the coach.
  3. Develop an expectation that the project will be successfully completed on time.
  4. Make time available for your team. Communicate with the coach and team weekly.

Let the team know you are counting on their work. Explain the impact that the project will have on the company. We are embarking on a great adventure of teaching students the practice of engineering. We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we do!