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Capstone Design

The mechanical engineering curriculum includes a Capstone Design project. It is a two-semester sequence, ME 411 and 412.

The courses include lectures and assigned work on the major topics in design. Students are organized into teams of four to six students, and each team is assigned a project for the two-semester sequence. Each team is expected to organize and carry out the design tasks. Faculty or industry sponsors serving as advisors.


We are seeking proposals for projects to assign to the student teams. Projects need to allow substantial design and conceptualization potential, not merely design changes of scale or duplication of existing systems. It must be possible to complete them within the two-semester time-frame. Based on past experience, we have found three types of projects to be effective:

  1. Industry projects: Industry representatives would define the project requirements and provide guidance to the student team during the semester. These projects are often those which the company needs to have completed, but either does not have the resources to complete, or is willing to treat them as “back-burner” needs. Sometimes the project can provide an opportunity for a fresh look at efforts underway within the company. The company needs to identify a resource person within the firm to answer student questions, meet with the student team periodically for progress reviews and attend the final presentation at the end of the semester. We address any requirements for confidentiality with industry sponsors when needed. (You will note that information on industry projects on the website is limited for this reason.)
  2. Student Extra-Curricular Projects: Our students are involved in a number of extra-curricular projects such as the Solar Car, Big Blue, SAE Formula Car, Mini-Baja and Weightless Wildcats Zero-G experiments. There are often specific design efforts that can be carved out of these projects for the Capstone design teams. These projects also have opportunities for industry participation or sponsorship.
  3. Student Design Competitions: There are several engineering organizations that sponsor student design competitions in addition to those such as the solar car or Mini-Baja. For example, ASME develops a new contest each year, requiring novel approaches to design and build a device to meet specific requirements. Two recent contests required students to: (1) develop a device to purify water with only human power and (2) develop a device to separate recyclable containers. The AIAA Design-Build-Fly competition is another popular contest for our students. These projects also have opportunities for industry participation or sponsorship.

Recent Projects:

During a typical year, approximately 20-30 projects are completed during Capstone Design.  Of these, about 1/2 are industry projects and the remainder are extracurricular and student design competitions. Example project results are illustrated below (note again that industry projects are not included here due to confidentiality considerations):


How you can help?

We are seeking brief proposals for possible projects for the upcoming academic year. All we need is a paragraph or two describing the project requirements. We will contact potential sponsors for any needed clarification. If the project seems to be a good fit, we will present it with other projects to student teams in late August. Sponsors will be contacted by the students during the year as they define a project plan and carry out the work.

We do not require a financial contribution to the projects. If there are substantial hardware or equipment needs, these are provided by the sponsor. Financial support is always appreciated.

If you are interested, please send a brief paragraph describing your project by August 10 for the fall semester and January 10 for the spring semester to the following:

David Herrin
155 Ralph G. Anderson Building
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0503