(June 11th, 2020)
In the words of Assistant Dean Jim Trent, the BYU College of Engineering Capstone is “a legacy program,” that has now reached its 30-year anniversary of providing students with real-world projects and experience in their undergraduate years.
Capstone is a two-semester culminating class completed in an engineering student’s senior year. Teams of students from Electrical, Mechanical, Computer, and Manufacturing Engineering work on projects in connection with professors and industry professionals.
Trent said Capstone also provides companies with a way to recruit students for full-time employment. Each team interacts with a liaison engineer from the sponsoring company, and companies get to know the students on their teams very well.
Paula Harper, the Capstone Administrative Assistant for Mechanical Engineering (ME), said the program is the cap on an undergraduate’s academic career, making Capstone a fitting term.
“It takes all of the theoretical things they’ve been learning and helps them learn how to apply their entire education in solving a specific engineering problem,” she said.
Capstone Through the Years
The Capstone program started in the 1989-90 school year when a new Manufacturing Engineering program was started. As part of the new freedom in curriculum, they were able to establish a yearlong Capstone program for students in the Industrial Design, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering majors.
Associate Chair and Professor Carl Sorensen has been involved with Capstone each year for the past 30 years. He was tasked along with Professor Spencer Magleby, and Professor Emeritus Robert Todd with developing the Capstone program. They sought feedback from those who hired BYU’s graduates about how students could be better prepared for working in industry.
They found that most people were happy with the technical skills of the graduates, but they struggled to translate those skills into working on real projects. They sought to make Capstone the bridge needed to help students readily transition into being practicing engineers.
The first year, Capstone was a pilot class, with four projects, four sponsors, and about 25 students. After that, the class became required for all students enrolled in the new curriculum.
In 1998, the Manufacturing Engineering and Technology programs were merged together, and it later became optional for Industrial Designers to complete a Capstone experience. Over the next few years, the program slowly grew as more people realized the benefits it provided for students.
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