New Timing Option Proves a Huge Help for Capstone Students

May 7, 2024

Giving students the opportunity to begin capstone projects in January means more can graduate on schedule and experience other advantages.

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5 students outdoors at a mining site
The students of Team 24508 approach the work site where they are doing structural analysis of pillar stability at the University of Arizona’s San Xavier Underground Mining Laboratory. Photo: Erik Amundsen

Not all engineering seniors presented their completed Interdisciplinary Capstone projects at the Craig M. Berge Design Day held April 29. Eight teams made up of 43 students instead began their projects in January and will finish them in December.

The required year-long course that students take while working with teammates on the capstone, Engineering 498, is the last class engineering students need to take to graduate.

In the past, students with alternative graduation schedules have had to take an extra semester to complete their degree requirements, since the class was offered exclusively in the fall. But now, students are saving both time and money with the new timing option.

Rodger Elkins, an adjunct lecturer of systems and electrical engineering, is teaching the first ENGR 498 class that began in the spring, allowing students to start their capstone course in January as opposed to August.

Elkins’ class hosts students from various engineering concentrations – even mining students, who generally have their own capstone course.

“They don’t have an out-of-sequence class like this one, so we’ve got some mining students and a mining project,” Elkins said.

Elkins’ students are working on projects throughout the calendar year that will be presented in December at an event similar to Design Day.

“We anticipated having four to six projects – we’ve got eight,” Elkins said.

Even Better Than Before

Erik Amundsen, a student in ENGR 498 who is majoring in mechanical engineering, is on Team 24508, whose project revolves around rehabilitating and renovating parts of the University of Arizona’s San Xavier Underground Mining Laboratory. Amundsen is a transfer student from Pima Community College who started at the UA in spring of 2023 and had a two-year plan to graduate. Now, because of the new course offering, he can fulfill that plan.

“Because of prerequisite courses and such, I was not able to get into the fall-to-spring section of senior design,” Amundsen said. “So, when they offered this session, it kept me on my two-year plan of graduating in exactly two years.”

The new course offering is not only helping students like Amundsen keep on track. It also allows more time for students to work on their projects during summer break if they choose to. Since the teams do most of their work outside of class and use class time to seek specific answers from the instructor, many will benefit. One advantage is having more time to order project components and have them delivered.

“The students now have all summer to bring their materials in,” Elkins said. “So, from that viewpoint, this class actually works out better.”

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