Senior Design

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The College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology (ECST) at California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA), invites corporate partners to join the ECST Capstone Senior Design Program. Through this program, corporate and university partnerships are established to provide highly engaging and relevant professional practice experiences for our engineering, technology, and computer science students. The program aims to enhance the recruitment, retention and graduation of high potential students who are fully prepared to enter the professional workforce.

Capstone Senior Design Projects: 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 engages students in an industry-defined problem, where students work with a real client (the company or industry partner) to solve a real 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; a faculty advisor; and a technical liaison from the sponsoring company, working on a real customer problem for a full academic year.

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 included: 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 LA 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 Cal State LA 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, a technical liaison, 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. 

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. The skills of 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. At Cal State LA, our students complete their senior year ready to hit the ground running in a business environment.

Project Sponsors are asked to provide funding for each project, to identify an Executive Sponsor as well as a Technical 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 a minimum of $10,000, and funding can be arranged as either a philanthropic grant (preferred) or as a contract.

Benefits of ECST Capstone Partnership

ECST is the only minority-serving institution (MSI) in the western United States where more than 60% of the enrollment in ABET-accredited engineering and computer science programs are underrepresented minorities and/or from low income families; the majority of our students will be the first person in their family to earn a college degree. Our College is committed to providing opportunities for our students to interact with employers throughout their time on campus; we are also committed to providing excellent and well-prepared graduates. Our Capstone partners have the opportunity to establish relationships with a very talented, bright and motivated cohort of students, and to partner with Cal State LA to build the next generation technical workforce for California.

For more information, please contact Director, Capstone Design Program, Michael Thorburn at [email protected].

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