Frequently Asked Questions

What is it?

A capstone design experience for students in Electrical & Computer Engineering.

What do they do?

Design, build, and test a solution to a real-world engineering problem in a team environment. The solution could be hardware/software based, or a combination of both.

How big are the teams?

Design teams are multi-disciplinary and consist of between 2 and 4 students, but may be larger depending on the scope of the particular project. A computer engineer is normally assigned to each team, unless specifically not required in the project. Typical projects are estimated at 900 to 1,200 engineering hours, including design, build, and test.

Where do projects come from?

Capstone design projects are company sponsored. The projects are real-world problems, providing real-world design experience for the students.

What are some of the advantages for students?

  • A practical real-world design experience
  • Development of team problem-solving skills & critical thinking; effective oral & written communication skills; adaptability, reliability & flexibility skills; technical proficiency
  • Experience budgeting time and finances
  • Project management skills, including planning, budgeting and scheduling
  • The chance to meet and work with potential employers
  • Networking at fall presentations and the spring Summit.

What are the potential benefits for industrial sponsors?

  • An opportunity to initiate elective research projects
  • Benefiting from the creative talent of students
  • Creation of innovative and competitive products
  • Ownership of intellectual property
  • Recruitment of potential employees, after an 8-month “interview process.”
  • Positively impacting a number of students with a sponsorship grant

Can you give me examples of current and past projects?

Go to these links: Current Academic Year Projects; Past Academic Year projects

What does it cost to sponsor a project?

Sponsorship fees are required to support fabrication, testing, and other key educational objectives of the program, such as component purchases, hiring of Teaching Assistants & support staff, summer re-contracting for the Program Director, prizes for top 3 teams each semester, printing costs, student support during the winter break, participation at capstone conferences, student and Director travel to company sites, web designer for site updates, social events etc. Because each Capstone Design Project is unique, sponsorship fees can vary from project to project. Fees are determined through collaboration with the sponsor to ensure sufficient funding for completion of the project and adequate program support.

What about Intellectual Property? Who owns the design?

Capstone sponsors have rights of first refusal to solely own the intellectual property arising out of the Project. Intellectual property includes: patentable and non-patentable inventions, designs, trademarks, works subject to copyright, trade secrets, and processes. These aspects are covered adequately in the Sponsorship Agreement signed by the company and the University.

What happens if the design doesn’t work?

The Capstone Design Program is educational in purpose and is designed to help students learn the practice of engineering. All project work is provided to the sponsor “as is” and is not guaranteed by the university. Sponsors are strongly encouraged to be full participants in the program to ensure the design solution will meet their needs and function as intended. That is the important reason to appoint a company Technical Director.” Our students are creative, talented, and driven, and often come up with novel, practical design solutions that are of great benefit to the industrial sponsor.  However, we cannot guarantee or warrantee any work done by our students, and suggest that a viable design solution for the given project NOT be critical to your enterprise.

What about Liability?

Liability, intellectual property, indemnification, non-disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, etc. is all governed by a legal agreement that is executed before the project begins, the Sponsorship Agreement.

What do sponsors receive at the end of the project?

Sponsors receive a comprehensive design report generated by the project team. The report fully documents the design, and includes engineering analysis as well as a detailed budget and a complete set of working drawings. Sponsors also receive all prototype hardware, software, etc. generated as part of the project. Finally, sponsors receive the students’ design log books and of ownership of any intellectual property developed during the course of the project.

My company is not in Rhode Island.  Is that a problem?

We have had industrial sponsors from outside of Rhode Island, with many from Mass. & Connecticut and beyond.  Design teams utilize modern communication tools such as Skype for video conferencing, and can also travel to the sponsor’s facility during the semester if needed.

What’s the Time Frame?

Project recruitment typically begins during the spring semester. Many projects are finalized by the end of the spring semester in late April, but some may extend over the summer depending on the number of available projects and students. Projects are presented to the class and teams are assigned at the beginning of the fall semester in September. Design takes place in the fall semester while prototype construction and testing takes place in the spring.

Who can I contact for more information?

The Capstone Program Director