Capstone project gives Y students real engineering experiences

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    By Peter McKellar

    Representatives from more than two-dozen companies, including Micron, Boeing and Ford, will be in the Wilkinson Student Center on Thursday, April 5, evaluating the work of hundreds of engineering students.

    Thirty-one projects, ranging from new designs for cell-phone headsets to computerized fishing rods, will be presented to the companies who sponsored their creation.

    Both the students and the companies are participating in BYU”s Capstone program, a unique course designed to give BYU students real-world experience working for big-name clients.

    “It”s really how engineering students prepare for the real world,” said Len Pugh, manager of the Capstone program. “They learn how to take a project from concept to prototype.”

    But the students aren”t the only ones benefiting from the relationship. A number of the projects that will be presented Thursday are patentable and provide considerable benefit to the companies commissioning the work.

    Students working on the projects will present their work to the company representatives throughout the day in rooms on the third floor of the Wilkinson Student Center. Schedules for each room will be posted outside the doors.

    Thomas Nyquist asked Capstone students to develop a computerized fishing-rod holder that mimics the back and forth motion of a professional angler.

    “To engineer something like this could have cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars. I wouldn”t have been able to afford my invention without Capstone,” Nyquist said in a news release.

    Companies interested in sponsoring a project provide an $18,000 educational grant to the university and work with students to move the project from a simple concept to a working prototype.

    “We ask sponsors to give us a mid- to back-burner project,” Pugh said. “Something that provides real value, but it”s on their backburner and they don”t have time to do it.”

    Companies not only benefit from the projects themselves, but many also use the Capstone program to evaluate potential employees, Pugh said.

    Some companies have hired the entire team of students who worked on their projects.

    The course, known as Integrated Product and Process Design, or ME 475-476, is a two-semester, six-credit course required for mechanical engineering, manufacturing and industrial design majors. However, it is open to a number of other majors as well.

    “Capstone is not just engineering,” Pugh said. “Capstone is project management.”

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