Doug May has been an Interdisciplinary Capstone mentor for more than a decade. He most recently worked in the aerospace industry. He previously served in the U.S. Air Force, working in a program office that developed the upper stage for the space shuttle. May says being part of that program, from evaluation of proposals to the beginning of production, spanned a design period comparable to Interdisciplinary Capstone projects.
How does being on a mentored design team help students in the professional world?
As mentors, we are part of professional exposure for students. Experiences from our working past serve as real examples of the material taught to teams. In addition, project sponsors who are working in the professional world advise and instruct on specific design details. This combination is excellent for transitioning to what is expected in engineering work. Seniors are preparing to move on to working in a complex environment. This design team experience is an important part of that transition.
What’s your favorite team or project you have mentored, and why?
I have mentored many teams with projects that became active tools or instruments used by the sponsor after the course ended. That was satisfying for me, as I’m sure it was for those students. As a favorite, I would name a satellite tracking telescope that is now operating within the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory to track and log low Earth orbit satellites.
What advice would you offer to others considering mentoring a design team?
Be open to mentoring projects outside your discipline or experience base. I have learned a great deal by being involved with new subject matter for me. It makes the mentoring experience more interesting. Much of the course involves project management and mentoring the teams to stay on track with the schedule of course requirements. Teams are encouraged to find specific technical expertise outside of the course.
How do employers benefit when they hire students who have been on a mentored senior design team?
I don’t need to think of an answer because they tell us. The capstone course is recognized for preparing students in a broad sense. The project management milestones are aligned with industry and government milestones. To expand on that a bit, we include a preliminary design review, critical design review and final acceptance review at appropriate points in the schedule that match industry standards.
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to learn.
I climbed Mount St. Helens before it blew its top. So, I can say that no one can stand where I once stood.