As a student in the Calderwood School of Arts and Letters, I am unfamiliar with the inner-workings of the Hopeman School of Science and Engineering. So I decided to talk to one of my mechanical engineer friends to find out a little bit more about their senior capstone projects.
Every year, Grove City College mechanical engineering students complete a year-long capstone design project. Students work over two semesters in groups ranging from six to nine people to completely design, and in some cases, build a product. The projects vary depending on the interests of the students, but you can find a few past examples in this blog post. This year the projects include a mobile greenhouse, an underwater robot, a turbulence tank to study oceanographic organisms, and an airplane.
The projects are very different from normal classwork, but are much more hands-on. They require a different kind of work compared to just studying for a test or writing a paper. Some projects are more research based and some have a set of specifications to meet.
My friend is a part of the team designing an airplane. Although they do not have the funds or the time to completely build a plane from the ground up, they are designing every piece of it and hope to build a significant portion of it. This is very time intensive – it requires at least eight to 10 hours of work each week from each team member. The students are not entirely on their own, however. Each team has a faculty adviser who answers questions, provides technical help, and ultimately grades the project.
Obviously, each project is different, but they all reflect topics that the students are interested in. The goal is to provide a very practical, hands-on experience for the students. It is a real-world application of the engineering process, regardless of the specifics of the project. Although the projects are difficult, my friend assured me that they are a fantastic learning experience and a very practical transition out of college and into the real world.