Capstone Design Process 

The ME and MET Capstone course assigns students to project teams that design and implement new products & systems, similar to common industrial practice. The capstone course also incorporates industry-specific nomenclature and procedures such as a standardized design process, project management elements, and presentations to peers and management.

The Capstone Design Flowchart below maps the process of design onto the two-semester schedule. This flowchart identifies common project phases and the associated design review decision points. Pay attention to this sequence as you work through your Capstone Design Projects.


Steps leading from product conception to product realization include a series of presentations to management and customer representatives. 

0. The preliminary or "zero'th" phase of a project involves  review by management and/or senior technical representatives to decide  whether a given project would be appropriate for the company's strengths and charter. If  'yes' then an  initial scope and project direction would be laid out.  Draft plans and superficial conceptual designs addressing customer requirements are often evaluated at an "Initial Design Review" or IDR. In a large organization, these reviews often precede the assignment by managment of designers, engineers and manufacturing people to project groups. Thus this phase may have only minor participation by designers, engineers and technologists except at the highest corporate level. On the other hand, for small companies where everyone wears many hats, this phase involve everyone! {For ME/MET Capstone Projects, the IDR occurs prior to assignment of groups and is undertaken by the instructors and sponsors.}

1. At project initiation, the project development team is assigned. The group works independently for a time and then presents progress and direction to management and customer at a "Preliminary Design Review" or PDR. If the project direction is viewed favorably, the team is given the go-ahead to enter the detailed design process. Or the group can be asked to revisit problem areas. {Capstone PDRs are scheduled to occur in November.}

2. The next evaluation and oversight hurdle is the "Critical Design Review" or CDR. This is a critique of product configuration, design details and analysis-based decision making. Significant changes in direction often result from this review. {Capstone CDRs are scheduled to occur near the end of Fall semester, in December.}

3. The "Production Readiness Review" or PRR presentation provides assurance that all elements are in place for fabrication of the product. Manufacturing equipment and building space, manpower and expertise, a complete and accurate drawing package, production scheduling, and budgeting are all investigated at this point in the process. {Capstone PRRs are scheduled near the beginning of the second project semester, in February for Fall-start projects or in late September/early October for Spring-start projects.}

4. The "Product Launch" allows some greater audience (such as the public) their first look at the results of the process. Occasionally a "Beta Version" will be launched in order to incorporate user experience or perceptions into future models or systems. {The Capstone analogy is participation at the Design Fair at the end of Spring semester.}

ME and MET Capstone Courses will utilize a process similar to the industrial model, as defined by the accompanying flowchart.