Welcome to ME 4054 Design Projects, the senior capstone design course in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. The Department appreciates your commitment to leading a student design team this semester. This handbook describes how the course works and your responsibilities as an advisor. Some suggestions for running your team are also provided.
More information about the course, including the schedule and a list of projects, can be found on the course web site, the first place to go if you need more detail. If you have any questions at all, please contact the faculty course coordinator, the course teaching assistant, or the course secretary.
You get 4-6 very bright Mechanical Engineering seniors working on your project for 15 weeks. In return, you must meet with your team every Tuesday or Thursday afternoon on the UMN campus for at least 90 minutes to guide them through their project.
The course defines a design process that all projects should follow, regardless of their specific topic. In addition, each project has a set of common, specific deliverables. However, each team is free to organize themselves and their work to match the project.
As an advisor, you also participate in student evaluation. This includes:
Projects should challenge the
creative, intellectual and technical abilities of the students.
Coming up with the project for your student team is largely up to you. Our number one priority is to provide a rich educational experience for the students, but we also want to maximize the benefit to the sponsors. Good projects have these features:
Innovative: Projects should be open-ended and amenable to multiple solutions. We want the teams to write a specification based on customer needs, generate multiple potential solution concepts and apply a formal selection procedure to identify the most promising concept. Advisors should avoid imposing a particular solution on the students at the start. However, you are invited to guide them in appropriate directions by providing all relevant information about the problem.
Familiar: Students do particularly well developing products or systems in domains with which they are familiar. Consumer products or easily understood designs or manufacturing systems are good examples. Students do best on new products, one-of-a-kind manufacturing systems, or mature products where new technologies open opportunities for novel solutions. Students do not have the highly specialized knowledge where they can compete effectively with seasoned experts in a narrow design area such as mold design or automobile engines.
Significant mechanical engineering content: Our students been trained in the fundamentals of mechanical engineering, so the project should have some mechanical component. Nevertheless, interdisciplinary projects are encouraged. Manufacturing, industrial engineering, computation, electronics, mechatronics, software, and controls have all been featured in past successful projects.
Requires engineering analysis: We want students to exercise their considerable analytic skills in their projects, to capitalize on their years in the mechanical engineering curriculum. The specific analyses required will be project dependent and might be done on a calculator, a spreadsheet or a computer-aided engineering package.
Realizable: We encourage physical, working prototypes to be delivered at the end of the course. Thus, simple systems that can be prototyped by the students in our student shop, or at your facilities, are encouraged.
Appropriate scope: Projects must be completed within the fifteen week semester.Once you come up with some project ideas, open a dialog with the course coordinator who will be happy to help you narrow in on a project. If you are unsure what student design teams can accomplish, we strongly encourage that you attend the ME4054 Design Show at the end of the previous semester. At the Design Show, you can see first hand what the students can (and can not) do and you can (gently) quiz the teams on what they do (and do not) know.
Three to four weeks before the course starts, you write a 200 to 300 word description of your project. Your audience is the students in the course who must choose among the many projects offered based entirely on the written project descriptions. A Project Description template form is available from the course staff.
Divide your writeup into two sections. The "Background" section should provide some context to the design problem. If the project is company sponsored, give a brief description of the company. The "Objectives" section should describe the specific project goals. What will be done? What are the expected project deliverables? Design calculations? Pro/E drawings? Mockup prototype? Working prototype? Be as clear as you can. Go to the course web site to see examples of current project descriptions.
Limit the description to 300 words. Additional detail can be given to the students in a handout when you first meet the team. Or, point the team to a web site where they can learn more about the problem. Use .doc format because the description will be posted on a web site.
In the description, alert the students if they will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement for the project (more below). Also, if you expect your team to occasionally meet off-campus, for example to tour a company site, please state this in the description. Although the weekly meetings the teams have with their advisors are held on the UMN campus, we encourage the student design teams to make multiple field trips to their sponsoring company's site during the semester.
In writing the description, put on your marketing hat and make the project
sound exciting. Your goal should be for every student in the class to request
your project as their first choice!
At the top of the description, put the following:
Project advisors are invited for lunch on the first Thursday of the semester. This gives us a chance to welcome you to ME 4054, to go over some course logistics, and for you to meet the course staff and other advisors. Attendance at the lunch meeting is strongly encouraged. (If you are going to show up at 1:25 to meet with your students team, you might as well show up at noon for a free lunch!)
You meet the student team assigned to your project for the first time on the UMN campus at 1:25 PM on the first Thursday of the new semester (consult the course web site or coordinator for the date). This is a must-happen meeting whose date and time cannot be changed.
Students all report to the lecture hall at 1:25. The students will learn of their project assignments and then depart to meet with their advisors in separate break out rooms. Later in this handbook are some suggestions for conducting this meeting in the "What to Do at the First Meeting" section.
You may want to come to the kick-off meeting with copies of a "design brief" that describes the project in more detail. If the project has a company sponsor, come with copies of the annual report, and/or product catalog or product data sheets for each student. Students love handouts; flood them.
The first class meeting for the course takes place the Tuesday before the kickoff meeting. Students will have received descriptions of all of the projects available during the semester and will have indicated their top five selections. The course staff assigns students to projects based upon preferences and an even (more or less) distribution of students among the projects. The goal is four to six students per project, but on occasion projects may have more than six students if course enrollment is unusually large.
The University of Minnesota's policy on intellectual property (IP) is that it is owned by the University when it is created by students while using University resources. If patentable IP is created by the students during their work in this course, a disclosure form should be completed and submitted to the University's Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC). The process for reporting IP to OTC and the intellectual property disclosure form can be found at: http://www.research.umn.edu/techcomm/report.html#.Tx7N7_nF98E. If the company for which the advisor of an ME 4054 team works wants to license IP created by the students on the team they're advising, they must inform OTC. This is generally done in Section 7 of the OTC will screen the IP claims to confirm that none were the result of University-sponsored research. If none are, then negotiations can begin for acquiring rights to the IP. An overview of the process for licensing intellectual property from OTC can be found at: http://www.research.umn.edu/techcomm/license-process.html#.T2s6QNV0Q4k.
Students can sign non-disclosure agreements if they are working on particularly sensitive projects, or if some of the documents they will be receiving from the company are sensitive. Standard NDA forms are available on the course web site. Keep in mind: students do have to present their work at the mid-project design review and at the Design Show. The latter is deemed a "public disclosure" for patent purposes because the Design Show is a public event. Portions of the final report can be kept confidential if necessary. A better solution might be to "sanitize" the report by omitting all references to specific company or product names. If at all possible, structure the project so that most or all of it is non-confidential, simply to make the logistics easier on everyone.
We strongly encourage you to advise the students to disclose intellectual property that they create to OTC if you feel it is patentable and could have commercial value.
No fee is charged for sponsoring a project. However, for projects sponsored by companies, the company is responsible to pay all expenses for prototyping, parts purchasing or other costs directly related to the project.
No purchases will be made without the approval of the advisor. The total cost is entirely dependent on the project and will vary widely. Work with your team to determine budget limits and reimbursement procedures.
Each project headed by a UMN Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty member receives $100 from the department for prototyping expenses. Reimbursement works through normal department petty cash procedures. Reimbursement forms must be signed by both the project advisor and by the course coordinator.
The course will pay the parking costs for advisors who come from off campus for weekly team meetings. Parking will be reimbursed for University of Minnesota ramps only. The closest parking to the MechE building are the Church Street and Washington Ave ramps. The UMN Parking Services department web site has maps and directions.
For reimbursement, bring your parking ticket to ME 1100 for validation. We are unable to do an after the fact reimbursement, so please remember to bring your parking ticket with you.
As a project advisor, you will be helping the course coordinator to evaluate student performance. You will be doing this twice, once mid-semester and once at the end.
The mid-semester evaluation is a chance for students to get some idea of how they are doing on the project. This evaluation is one you will be doing on your own without any knowledge of how students in other projects are doing. Generally, good work rates a B and up. B- and below is reserved for the non-contributors. A's at mid-semester would be rare because we want to reserve some headroom for students to get better. If you team is doing pretty well, the spread of grades among your students will be B to A-. Feel free to go outside these bounds if the students deserve it. The mid-semester grade is separate from the Mid-Term Design Review grade; the mid-semester grade does not become part of the final grade. The mid-semester grade goes directly from you to the students.
The final grade is computed at the end of the course. Each team will get a team grade based upon several factors:
If the team has done well, that grade will be B or above. If the team has done very well, that grade will be B+ or above. If the team has done really well, that grade will be A- or A.
Once the team has received a grade, the final grade for individual students on the team is adjusted from the team grade. Adjustments are based on your evaluation of individual effort, as well as records of grades on lecture attendance and a quiz on design process collected by the staff during the semester. If everyone was about the same, they all get the team grade. Those who had particularly valuable contributions would go up from the team, and those who did little, would go down. The distribution of student grades from the team grades is determined by the advisor based on observations of team meetings, progress reports, notebooks, the anonymous peer evaluation and any other evidence you might have of individual contributions. It would be rare for a student to deviate by more than a grade level from the team grade, but particularly good or particularly poor students may have a wider range. For example, if the team receives a B+, C or below for a student on the team would be rare.
While you will evaluate the team and the students, the course coordinator has the sole responsibility of assigning the final grade.
Have fun and take advantage of having some bright students working on your project. We can't guarantee that they will come up with exactly what you or they wanted, but if the students learn, and you get some added value from the project, it will be a grand success.