Capstone design, mechanical engineering project or personnel management challenge?

Richard Goff, Janis P. Terpenny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


There are approximately 275 mechanical engineering seniors at Virginia Tech who participate in one of several possible capstone design projects. The SAE Mini Baja is one of these projects and is extremely popular among students. The object of this paper is to communicate and illuminate the broad spectrum of issues encountered in a team based capstone design project. In fall 2004, I became the faculty advisor of the Virginia Tech SAE Mini Baja team which is also one of the ME 4015 Mechanical Engineering senior capstone design projects. At first, I thought that the project would be mostly a mechanical engineering project and wondered, as an aerospace engineer, whether I was up to the task. However, as time went on, I discovered that the real challenge was not of mechanical engineering expertise, but one of team guidance and management. This paper describes the SAE Mini Baja design competition as a mechanical engineering capstone design project and the many challenges that face the advisor and a thirty-five member team charged with designing, building, testing two vehicles as well as competing in three of the SAE Mini Baja events around the country. The vehicles are constructed in the Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory which is a model for collaborative design-build spaces. The paper also illuminates some of the tools and methods that are used to facilitate the success of the team as well as discusses some of the difficulties of working with such a large design team. Design and team assessment instruments are presented. Suggestions aimed at successful future teams and projects are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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