Maseeh College Seniors Present Capstone Projects
Author: Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science
Posted: June 15, 2012

Maseeh College seniors from three departments presented their Capstone projects during the last week of spring quarter. On June 6, Mechanical and Materials Engineering (MME) seniors gave project presentations then displayed their prototypes in the Engineering Building Atrium along with MME freshmen projects. On June 8, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) seniors gave Capstone project presentations in the morning while Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) students exhibited their devices at a public poster session in the afternoon.

The PSU Senior Capstone, a University Studies requirement for all PSU undergraduates, is meant to be a culminating experience for students. Capstones take students out of the classroom and into the field to apply what they have learned over the course of their undergraduate studies to a community project. For engineering students, this means solving a real-world problem by often (but not always) producing something tangible and hands-on, such as an actual prototype or device. Depending on the department, the project ideas are either proposed by local industry sponsors or chosen by the students themselves.

About more than producing a device or prototype, however, senior Capstone projects also foster the development of critical skills necessary for future success as a professional engineer, skills such as teamwork, project design and management, and verbal and written communication.  

Common to all engineering Capstones is the sheer problem-solving ingenuity of Maseeh College students on display. Some examples of Capstone projects from each of the three departments that held events last week:

Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Cross Country Sit Ski: Sponsored by the PSU Inclusive Rec Center, six students designed a single adjustable sit ski (a device that allows people with limited mobility to ski from a seated position) that can accommodate a wide range of users and user injuries. As is often the case, settling on a final design required students to compromise on conflicting design requirements; for example, a narrower sit ski would make it easier for users to propel themselves with ski poles, but a wider design would improve stability. The students field tested their sit ski under real conditions on Mt. Hood.


Volcanic Lake Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Water and Sediment Probe: A team of six students designed and built a water sampler for use by a PSU biology professor to collect samples at Boiling Springs Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. They were asked to design a water sampler that could be deployed using a remotely operated vehicle (in this case, a small, metal boat), collect samples of at least 0.5 liters, withstand the harsh conditions of the volcanic lake (120 Celsius temperatures and high levels of sulfur and sulfuric acid), as well as transmit real-time data a distance of at least 500 meters.  

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Pavement Condition Evaluation and Design: Five students conducted an independent evaluation of StreetSaver©, an online pavement management system used by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) in the management of its nearly 4900 lane miles of roads. The students conducted an independent rating and comparison to assist PBOT in answering reliability questions regarding the Streetsaver© program, which is used to make decisions about road rehabilitation. The project entailed selecting a sample of streets to examine, Pavement Condition Index (PCI) training to be able to manually calculate PCI, hand collection and evaluation of data, and comparison to other cities of a similar size and climate.        

Bridges to Prosperity Nicaragua Footbridge: Six CEE students, working with the organization Bridges to Prosperity, conducted a detailed feasibility study and site analysis and did a structural design for a footbridge for use in a rural area in the mountains of Nicaragua. The students chose a 120 meter suspended bridge design that will connect two communities on the north side of the Rio Grande de Matagalpa from the schools, healthcare clinics, and markets located on the south side. Water flow and hydraulic analysis were compiled to assess the stream flow, which varies greatly during the dry and rainy season. Several students will return to the site in December to construct the bridge with the help of local community members.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Prescription Drug Identification Device: A four-member team of PSU Intel Vietnam Scholars created a prescription drug identification device for use in emergency rooms and medical offices when patients can’t recall the drugs they are taking. By capturing an image of just one pill, the device can identify drugs in less than 15 seconds by matching the pill’s identification number and/or shape and color against a database of 18,000 prescription drugs. The students won the Intel Cornell Cup Embedded Design Competition in May for their device, placing ahead of teams from the University of Pennsylvania and MIT.