Capstone design program pairs students with dozens of regional companies in year-long projects

Nov 06, 2018
Capstone design program pairs students with dozens of regional companies in year-long projects
Matt Bohm, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Florida Polytechnic University, speaks with the media earlier this year at Draken International. Draken is one of many companies collaborating with the University to facilitate its senior capstone design program. Bohm is Florida Poly’s capstone design coordinator.

Editor’s Note: At Florida Poly, we’re 100 percent STEM so it’s only natural that we’re turning National STEM Day 2018 (Nov. 8) into a weeklong celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math. Monday’s focus was science, and today we explore technology.

One of the many ways Florida Polytechnic University fulfills its mission – to serve students and industry through excellence in education, discovery, and the application of engineering and applied sciences – is through its senior capstone design program.

“Capstone is where students take everything they’ve learned in their first three years and apply it to an industry-driven, open-ended problem,” said Dr. Matt Bohm, associate professor of mechanical engineering and Florida Poly’s capstone design coordinator. “They’re getting to show off what they’ve learned.”

Capstone projects are a staple of engineering schools and in most cases – like at Florida Poly – are required to graduate. They involve a syllabus, credit hours, and a final grade. One way Florida Poly’s capstone program is unique compared to other institutions is that it takes place over two semesters instead of just one.

“Students actually get to be more in depth because of the two-semester sequence,” said Bohm. “It allows them to come up with a much more elegant solution.”

Bohm is no stranger to capstone programs. Now in his third year at Florida Poly, after six years at the University of Louisville, he’s worked with capstone programs for nearly a decade. This year, he oversaw the creation of 35 capstone projects with 23 companies and entities, which will be made up of more than 200 seniors. He said the two-semester approach Florida Poly offers benefits everyone involved.

“It really does give companies the time to engage with the students,” said Bohm. “From a human resources perspective, they’re getting to basically pre-interview these students for eight or nine months so it’s a big recruiting tool. Part of our mission is to be involved in the community and help the state grow economically, and this helps local companies and local entrepreneurs move their businesses forward.”

Paragon Water Systems in Tampa, Florida, is one of the companies sponsoring a capstone project. Specializing in water filtration solutions, Paragon is collaborating with Florida Poly students to develop a baseline methodology to reduce the time it takes from the time a product is initiated to when it’s released for production.

“It’s really the beginning of the interview process,” said Dustan Hahn, global engineering manager for Paragon and someone who has worked closely with capstone projects from the industry perspective for more than 30 years. “It’s a time for companies to get to know students that might be future employees. The projects give students an opportunity to contribute, learn and understand where they might want their career to go.”

Additional projects this year include the development of a rapidly deployable hurricane relief house, advances in citrus harvesting, and even an autonomous e-bike. Many of the projects are interdisciplinary with almost all of them originating from companies located within 100 miles of Florida Poly’s Lakeland campus. Students work on the projects either on-campus or off-campus, depending on the company and the type of project.

“Not only are they doing these projects, they’re also learning the design process, applying design tools, evaluating potential solutions, doing optimization, turning in reports, and making presentations,” added Bohm.

When completed, the students will present their projects at a senior capstone showcase in April at the University’s Innovation, Science, and Technology Building.

For more information about capstone projects at Florida Poly, contact Bohm.

Lydia Guzman
Assistant Director of Communications