The excitement was evident as more than one thousand visitors entered Gampel Pavilion for UConn School of Engineering’s Senior Design Day on Friday, May 2, 2014. The mezzanine of the Pavilion was lined with posters and displays outlining the projects of sixteen teams of senior class Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering majors.
Friends and family visited each team’s display to view the results of a year of hard work. Faculty and industry judges stayed longer, asking probing questions and listening carefully as the students explained the intricacies of their projects.
“It’s rewarding to get positive feedback on the work you’ve done all year,” says William Hale whose project sponsored by Aero Gear won second place in the department.
“Besides your grades and resume, nothing is more powerful than a strong story. An in-depth design experience sounds great to companies hiring our students,” says Prof. Jeffrey McCutcheon, a mentor for several capstone design projects.
The Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering prides itself on its ability to provide students the critical tools necessary for their future successes. The rigorous four-year CBE curriculum provides students in-depth skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As the last step before graduation, the department requires that students work in teams and showcase their proficiencies in a final challenge: capstone design.
“Capstone design has been retooled by our talented faculty, and is now a truly unique experience for our seniors and industry sponsors alike,” says Doug Cooper, Head of the CBE department. Students, guided by faculty and industry mentors, are tasked with analyzing a chemical system, process, or component, subject to economic, environmental, and health and safety considerations.
“Our students worked on 14 different projects ranging from developing an artificial kidney using advanced manufacturing techniques, to developing a continuous process for producing coffee,” says Prof. Leslie Shor, this year’s Capstone Design faculty leader.
One group led by Prof. McCutcheon collaborated with KX Technologies, a Marmon Water/Berkshire Hathaway Company. During the design team’s journey of discovery and invention, they visited the company headquarters in West Haven, CT, to present their work. Technology experts from the company were in attendance and engaged the students with questions and advice.
“Capstone design has allowed me to put technical knowledge to use in a real world situation. I am grateful for the opportunity to work hands-on with a company, and I think that I will take away valuable time management and interpersonal skills,” says Diva Evans, one of the three group members to visit KX Technologies.
Beyond adding a substantial boost to a resume, this comprehensive program gives students the early experience to think, work and act as an engineer. “You’re not just doing problems out of a book,” says James Cioffi, another member of the second place team, “you’re getting real-world results, and it’s a new thing to be impressed with the work you’ve done.”
The number and diversity of projects in this year’s program made this a challenging, but exciting year for the seniors, and the outcome has no doubt been of benefit to the students, and will be to their future employers.
Students are faced with challenges in planning, prioritizing and communicating, even adapting should something go wrong. “I think many students are also learning something about themselves, about their own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and maybe what sort of work they would like to do next year,” says Prof. Shor.