Senior Design

PPP SD logo 2016

The purpose of the Senior Design Project Program is to provide students with a capstone experience in which they apply their theoretical knowledge to real applications. The program exposes students to an industry setting, where students work with a real client (the company or industry partner) to solve a client-defined problem. The result may be a physical prototype, software package, or operational algorithm. Regardless of project type, student teams are expected to meet the needs of their client, and deliver a product at the end of the academic year. Projects involve teams of four or five engineering/computer science, or technology students, and a faculty advisor working on a real customer problem for a full academic year (1200 hour team minimum). Faculty and staff support the efforts of the student-led professional practice teams that solve the problems for the customer.

The college launched the Senior Design Program in 2008 with nine corporate partners: The Aerospace Corporation, The Boeing Company, DirecTV, Heateflex, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and Southern California Edison.  In its second and third year, the college welcomed new partners that include: EmCycle, Medtronic MiniMed, Naval Surface Warfare Center-Corona, Space Systems Loral, Southern California Gas Company, Raytheon, and the United Parcel Service (UPS).

In 2012, Cal State L.A. was awarded the prestigious Excellence in Engineering Education Collaboration Award by the Corporate Member Council of the American Society of Engineering Educators at the February 2012 ASEE/CIEC Annual Conference.  The Aerospace Corporation, the Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman Corporation were recognized as Corporate Council Members that were founding sponsors/partners of the CSULA ECST Professional Practice Program.

Several elements make these projects like an actual work experience. First, the industrial partner specifies the open-ended problem. It is a real problem that needs to be solved. Second, the team is self managed by the students.  Although there is a faculty advisor and a recognized student team leader, each student has a leadership role and the responsibility to make sure the team functions well.  This simulates many work situations. Finally, the industrial liaison is the customer for the team.

The team must interact with the customer weekly as they plan the project to be sure that the goals they set are relevant to the industrial problem.  They will present their plan and results in meetings with the liaison.  They will negotiate solution, timing and features. They will react to changing information as the year progresses. These skills, negotiating, project planning; presenting, adjusting to changing conditions, and writing reports are all needed in the workplace, but often are not sufficiently taught to undergraduate engineers. The Senior Design project is much more like an industrial experience than any other course situation. Students are exposed to the skills required to be a professional engineer.

The self-sustaining exemplar Professional Practice Program has allowed the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at CSULA to join a small but elite group of colleges and universities such as Harvey Mudd and Olin that are recognized leaders in professional practice preparation for graduating engineers. Sponsors are asked to provide funding for each project, to identify an Executive Sponsor as well as a Project Liaison to have weekly contacts with the team. Sponsors receive full use of the results and IP produced by their student team. Funding for each senior design project requires $25,000 plus overhead, which may depend on whether the funding is provided as a contract or a philanthropic grant.