Environmental and Ethical Considerations for Design

What are Earth's current challenges? What are current and near-future role of engineering design for mitigating these challenges and adapting to a changed climate? This part of the experience focuses on Design for Environment (DFE), as well as engineering ethics, codes and standards and patents. 

Creativity and Design Methods

This piece of the capstone experience focuses on biometric design, functional decomposition, TRIZ, decision theory, weighted decision matrixes, and AHP.

Capturing Users' True Requirements

This portion of the capstone experience focuses on listening, Kano's four criteria, writing "good" design requirement specifications, surveys, benchmarking, TQM including House-of-Quality, RFPs, RFQs and RFIs and writing winning proposals. 

Design Processes (technical)

There are several aspects of design processes that are covered in the capstone experience, including:

  • Skill-building - sketching, problem solving, modeling, analyzing, parametric analyses, CAD, technical decision making, detailing, tolerances and GD&T.
  • System engineering - interfaces, trade-off studies, system boundaries, and system budgets (e.g. for mass, electrical power demand, etc.)
  • Selecting materials - fracture mechanics, fatigue, creep, temperature sensitivity, corrosion, wear, lubrication and cost
  • Designing for reliability and quality - instilling long-life, availability, redundancy, cross-strapping, FMECA, FTA, process control for fabrication, trouble-shooting tools (e.g. Ishikawa diagrams), six sigma design and fabrication
Project and Design Team Management

During this part of the capstone course, students learn about stage-gate I, spiral and SCRUM models, WBS project management, team dynamics, scheduling, estimating cost, managing technical risk, TRL and the role of research and development (R&D). 

Project and design team management is a critical part of MAE445/446, the mechanical engineering senior capstone design project that all undergraduate Clarkson mechanical engineering majors take
    Verification and Validation

    Students utilize during the capstone experience five verification methods including testing and simulation, such as 3D verification space. 

    This graph is an example of 3D verification space, which is a critical part of MAE445/446, the mechanical engineering senior capstone design project that all undergraduate Clarkson mechanical engineering majors take

    Throughout the capstone experience, students are expected to work on weekly reports and at the end of the project, they also create presentations, final reports and posters so they can present at research sessions and symposiums. 

    What Undergraduate Students say about ME445/ME446

    Collective lessons learned during the 2020 capstone experience:

    • how to collaborate using digital tools
    • how to distribute the workload on a team
    • how to balance numerous projects with competing deadlines
    • how to quickly adapt plans to meet project goals
    • the importance of timely, thorough and clear communication between team members and the FM
    • insights on the service conditions of a dairy farm and the degree of ruggedness equipment must have to remain reliable on a dairy farm

    "This project gave me valuable project management experience. I gained exposure to many aspects of typical engineering projects, including schedules, work packages, site visits, conceptual designs, detailed designs, CAD models, and analysis. Specific knowledge I developed throughout this project and this course include how to perform reliability analysis (particularly FMECA) and how to select from conceptual design alternatives. In future design projects, I plan to use a similar template for documentation as was used in this project." - Luke

    "While working with this group to complete our goal, I learned many valuable lessons that I will take with me throughout my engineering journey. Most importantly, I learned to listen to what peers and mentors had to say and respect their ideas in order to create the best design for the end user." - Derrick 

    "I learned how to perform reliability analysis, especially fault tree analysis. I also learned how to work effectively in a group." - Lucian

    "This project taught me that even though our design was good in our eyes, with no ways to make it better, there is always a way to make it better. Having help from the professor, someone with more knowledge on this project that us, was really beneficial." - Jacob

    "While working on the limit switch project for the dairy farm, I learned that there are many ways to do a project. It is a matter of doing calculations and research to slowly narrow down the options till you just have a couple left. Then once you have it narrowed down to the last couple of, go with the one that feels like it would work best and has the least amount of uncertainty." - Nick

    Information for Industry Sponsors


    Clarkson’s engineering departments all offer “Capstone” engineering design project courses to undergraduate engineering students. Mechanical engineering students take ME-445 Integrated Design -1 and ME- 446 Integrated Design-2. Each is a one-semester course sequentially forms the Capstone Design experience. The two main objectives are for students to apply their technical knowledge to real-world design situations and to acquaint students with the design processes generally used by US industry and government organizations.(Inventiveness is encouraged however creating patentable products is not a primary objective, noting that much of engineering practice consists of doing things correctly, efficiently and economically.)

    Both courses are offered in the spring and fall semesters. Typically, 100 or so students take ME445 in the fall semester and continue to ME-446 in the spring semester at which time their Capstone design will have been completed. Forty or so new students take ME-445 in the spring and then ME-446 in the following fall.

    Design teams consist of two to eight students, with four or five being the norm. Each team works on a different project, though sometimes multiple teams will work on different aspects of the same project. Each team has a faculty mentor who regularly meets with her/his team. Project “completion” can vary. For some projects, students design, build and verify a prototype hardware model. For others they only provide analyses, CAD models, sometimes code and hardware drawings. All project teams write a comprehensive final report and also present their work at a poster session held at Clarkson at the end of each semester.

    Concurrently, students study the design process. Topics emphasize system engineering and include design for manufacturing and assembly, design for reliability, WBS project management, decision-making tools, design for the environment, fostering creativity, verification… etc.

    Project ideas come from many sources: recommendations by the faculty, suggestions by the students, interdepartmental projects recommended by other Clarkson Departments, and recommendations and sponsorship by industry. A few weeks after they begin ME-445 students are presented with a list of potential projects. 

    • Industry, non-profit organizations and government organizations should recommend projects of interest.
    • The above may be done as one-on-one communication with Clarkson faculty, which can be facilitated by the chair of the department.
    • Projects should span two semesters. Students would begin doing project-specific work a month or so after the start of ME-445.
    • Industry (et al) must provide a project mentor. He/she should have periodic (weekly preferred) “meetings” with the student team, either in-person or via telecon, videoconference, webinar or other means.
    • From time-to -time MAE faculty may join these meetings as non-participants(unless called upon).
    • Industry project mentors are strongly encouraged to meet in-person with their student teams at least once during ME-445 semester and again during ME-446.
    • They should also keep the Clarkson ME-445/6 course instructor informed by email as to the progress of the team.
    • Industry project mentors should define what constitutes “completion” of the project.
    • Industry project mentors should recommend a grade for each student to the course instructor.
    Management of Expectations
    • The work should be within the technical capacity of Junior and Senior undergraduate engineering students.
    • Atypical project team is usually made up of students with a range of technical knowledge as well as a range of hands-on experience with fabrication, integration and verification and others with little or none.
    • Time can be a constraint. The sum amount of time a student has to work on an ME445/6 project throughout a semester is limited, accounting for her/his other courses and some cases Clarkson sports, ROTC and other activities. A maximum allowance of work time is 7-8 hours/week.
    • Finally, Industry Project mentors should keep in mind that the main purpose of design projects is to be an educational experience for the students, not to produce ‘value’ for the industry.
    • Unless otherwise defined within their own organization (e.g. NASA) industry and government are expected to pay Clarkson a non-refundable $2,500 at the beginning of a project.
    • At the conclusion of the project, i.e. at the end of ME-446, they are requested to pay an additional $2,500 provided they are satisfied with the student’s effort on the project.
    • The above may be fully or partially in the form of “in-kind” payment. For example, the organization might provide materials or components (e.g. motors) or perform fabrication or testing that otherwise Clarkson would have to pay for.
    • Financial considerations for student projects done for non-profit organizations (e.g. American Red Cross) will be handled on a case-by-case basis.