- Cioc, Carmen; Cioc, Sorin; Springman, Richard A
- The Capstone Projects course is certainly one of the most important courses the students experience in our college. In the Mechanical Engineering Department and in the Engineering Technology Department capstone project courses, students are exposed to and demonstrate their abilities listed in most, if not all, ABET student outcomes a-k. Still, in our experience, not all projects provide strong components related to student outcomes h (broad education), j (knowledge of contemporary issues), and i (life-long learning). In this context, this work shows some of our experiences in implementing projects originating from the community where our university is located. In particular, this work presents two cases: (i) one project to satisfy the need of an elderly resident to move larger items with his pick-up truck and (ii) one project based on the idea proposed by a local inventor related to power production. In both cases the clients have no engineering background, but they are confronted with problems that can be solved through engineering design. As opposed to other projects, such as those related to people with physical disabilities or those with local industrial partners, in these community-related projects the clients were very closely involved in the design process, although not as engineers. By working on such projects, our students were able to interact with and learn from people of different backgrounds; this interaction, while not always simple, benefitted both our students and their clients. They were also able to see firsthand the positive impact their work can have on people’s lives: transforming a dreamed idea into a physical prototype, or helping a member of our community with his daily activities. Finally, by directly interacting with people who continue to propose new ideas and lead active lives with new problems, even after retirement, our students experienced the importance that life-long learning and intellectual curiosity have on people’s lives.