Sponsor a senior project

ME Senior Project

Mechanical Engineering and Interdisciplinary Projects

ME and Interdisciplinary seniors work in teams for a full academic year (three quarters) on senior projects.  Projects can start in September, January, or April.  Projects focus on developing a product to solve a design challenge proposed by an external sponsors.  Student teams are formed in the first two weeks and stay together for the entire project.  Faculty guide students through this design process:

    • During the first quarter, teams work to fully define the problem, conceptualize solutions, perform feasibility studies, and ultimately decide on a design direction.  The first quarter culminates with a formal Preliminary Design Review (PDR).
    • During the second quarter, teams complete detailed design and supporting analysis, then hold a formal Critical Design Review (CDR).  After CDR, sponsors procure the requested materials and students begin building their Verification Prototype. 
    • The third quarter is used to finish building and testing the verification prototype to confirm how well it meets the project goals.  A Final Report and Project Expo are presented at the end of the course sequence. 

A faculty advisor meets with each team on a weekly basis, guiding them on their project.  For the technical specifics, the students work with their industry contact and other Cal Poly faculty.

This enriching experience is a unique opportunity to get involved with Cal Poly engineering seniors and to understand firsthand what makes Cal Poly students stand out among other applicants when it comes to their employment.

    1. Creative Ideas.  Students bring fresh perspectives and creativity to your problem.  Since they haven’t worked in your area, they will be willing to take risks and try out new ideas.
    2. Real Results.  All teams create a design, analyze it, construct a prototype, and perform tests.  While we can’t guarantee the final prototype will function, you and the students will learn a lot about your design challenge during the process.
    3. Extended Interview.  Working with a student team lets you interact with students for a full academic year.  This is like an extended interview if you are interested in hiring Cal Poly graduates.
    4. Student learning.  Your sponsorship of a senior project will allow a team of ME seniors to work on a realistic design challenge while preparing them for work in industry.

All ME senior project teams are required to design, build, and test their project. While that adds a significant learning element to our program (students can SEE if their design works as intended!), this also means that open-ended research projects or wholly analytical studies are not appropriate. 

A good way to get a feel for the types of projects that work well in our program is to check out recently completed projects: 

If you are unsure if your project would be a good fit, just contact us.  We work closely with all sponsors before the class begins to help determine an appropriate project scope.

    • Design Challenge.  We need problems (design challenges) that could be solved by a mechanical system.  Don’t worry if you can’t fully define the problem – that’s part of the design team’s job!  I’ll also help you determine the right scope.
    • Communication.  The best projects have fully-engaged sponsors interested in the outcome who remain in contact with the team throughout the year. 
    • Prototype Materials.  All teams build & test a physical Verification Prototype.  Teams perform most manufacturing and testing themselves, but we rely on the sponsor to provide unique materials and fund specialty manufacturing or non-standard testing.
    • Course Fee.  We ask external sponsors to pay a Course Fee at the start of the project to cover course administrative, facility, equipment, and limited project costs.  For sponsors willing to use Cal Poly’s standard Industry-Sponsored Student Project (ISSP) agreement, the Course Fee is:
      • $7500 for corporate sponsors
      • $4000 for individuals or start-up (<50 employees)

Please note the following about our Course Fee:
      1. Click here to view a copy of the standard ISSP agreement.  Please DO NOT fill in this form yet!  First, contact us so we can work together to determine your project scope.  
      2. If you don’t need a formal agreement, we offer a 20% discount on the Course Fee, which would then be considered a donation.
      3. We waive the Course Fee for non-profits and Cal Poly students or employees who don’t need a formal agreement.
      4. If our standard agreement doesn’t work for your organization, we can work with you to create a custom agreement.  Note, however, that this will take additional time and increases the project’s costs.  Contact us at least three months before the course begins if you will need a custom agreement.

Beyond sponsoring a project, there are other great ways that you can help support the ME Senior Project program:

    • Become a Senior Project Mentor.  We are looking for practicing engineers interested in mentoring a senior design team.  Your role would be to act as an alternative resource for the team members – for project issues, career questions, and general advice.  If you’re interested in sharing your experience with a senior design team, let me know and I’ll get you more information.
    • Donate to the Mechanical Engineering Senior Project Fund to support machine shop technicians and provide project materials for non-profits.  
    • Support the prototyping costs for a non-profit project.  Non-profits bring terrific design challenges, but many lack the funding to pay for the materials so students can build a functioning system.  This is a great way to make your donation go further – the students get a great design experience and the non-profit gets a custom-built functional system.  If you are interested in sponsoring one of these projects, send me an e-mail and I’ll connect you with one of our non-profit sponsors. 

Please contact Peter Schuster if you would like to learn more about these options.

If you’d like to know more about the program or have a design challenge you’d like to discuss, please contact the ME senior project director, Peter Schuster, at pschuste@calpoly.edu.  Or, if you prefer, use our Online Proposal Form to submit your project idea. 

After we receive your project idea, we’ll follow up to discuss the details and help you refine the scope to ensure project success.  At the same time, we’ll start the project sponsorship paperwork. 

Project kickoff occurs at the beginning of each quarter (late September, early January, or early April). This includes an opportunity for your to present your project idea and answer student questions, and is followed by student interest surveys and team-forming.  We only invoice the course fee after your project is assigned to a team.

We hope to have your project on-board next year!

Please contact Peter Schuster with questions pschuste@calpoly.edu