Did you know that mechanical engineering is the most popular major offered at Grove City College? The program has long been recognized by U.S. News and World Report for providing an outstanding education. The Department of Mechanical Engineering prepares students to excel in careers such as engineering research, design, manufacturing, production, sales, and management as well as top graduate and professional programs. One of the practical methods the department uses to cultivate important engineering skills is the design projects that are worked on for the entirety of a student’s senior year.
Dr. Vern Ulrich oversees the senior design projects in addition to his professorial duties. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with him and discussing the senior design projects happening this year. For the 2017 – 2018 school year, there are 59 mechanical engineering seniors divided among nine projects. The specifics of the projects range from designing an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system for the chapel while maintaining the architecture of the building to designing and eventually constructing a small airplane.
Suggestions from students, professors, and outside companies in the industry are welcomed and combined to determine possibilities for design projects. Dr. Ulrich shared with me a list of criteria that he and other collaborating professors use to determine if a senior design project is viable. This list of selection priorities include (in no particular order):
- Fosters good relationships with industrial employers and supporters
- Outside money provided for the project
- Opportunity to participate in intercollegiate competition
- Benefit to department research interests
- End product is useful to the mechanical engineering department or to other Grove City College departments
- Advances the Gospel
- Serves the greater good humanity
- Patentable idea
- Requires a cross-functional team
- Opportunity to design and build
- Interest on the part of the students
- Provides students with a stepping stone toward dream job
Dr. Ulrich shared with me that ideally, he would love for a senior design project to be a stepping stone for someone’s dream career. This shines through as students’ interests are given a lot of consideration when determining senior projects and student teams. Dr. Ulrich reported that two projects were cut this year because there was simply not enough interest.
Although the senior design projects may seem daunting, there is much intentional thought and prayer throughout the process. The collaborating professors work with the students students in order to ensure success and the efficient completion of the project. Many students report that the senior design projects are their favorite component of the program, truly preparing them for a future in the field.