Student teams solve real-world problems through their capstone projects

Each year, the Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering (FABE) partners with companies and organizations on industry-sponsored projects as part of a Capstone Design course. The Capstone Design experience aims to bridge the gap between the classroom and industry.

The course is offered to seniors in two different program areas: Food, Agriculture, and Biological Engineering (FABE) and Ag Systems Management (ASM). It is a required course for these students to apply the knowledge and engineering skills gained throughout their academic career to solve real-world, open-ended problems.

Projects are completed as part of a two-semester sequence in groups of four to six students, making it necessary for students to develop the skills needed to lead projects and navigate group dynamics, including planning and meeting project deadlines and communication among team members, project sponsors, and course instructors. During the project, students have the opportunity to work with industry members as well as faculty and technical experts, gaining experience in real-world engineering. Many of these projects can lead to new technologies or other innovations outside of the university. Typical outcomes include written reports, design prototypes, and professional communication to sponsors and the community.

Past projects have included a granular fertilizer metering unit, data-driven technology for yield monitor resolution, assistive technologies for agricultural machinery, storm water management assessments and wastewater remediation. Several food-related projects involved vertical farming, filtration systems in dairy processing, and sensors for detecting bacon readiness. An international project focused irrigation solutions for smallholder farmers in Tanzania. In addition, through NASA’s eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Challenge sponsored projects, several groups have worked with NASA engineers developing solutions for growing food crops in space.

“Of course, the highlight is seeing the students’ present their final designs at the end of year showcase. But also, along the way, it’s amazing to see how the students’ overcome challenges and progress throughout the year. Each year, I continue to be impressed with the ideas these students are coming up with,” said Jane Fife, a member of the FABE Capstone instruction team.

Besides completing the course for a grade, students also present their projects to the FABE department’s industry advisory group. There are additional opportunities for students to present their findings to professional organizations, including the Agricultural Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

This past March, one team presented their design at a national disability conference. “These five young engineers were rock stars at the conference,” said Dee Jepsen, program director of Ohio AgrAbility and project advisor for this team said. “Their project shows great potential to impact persons with lower extremity disabilities. As they finesse their prototype, it has patent potential for future skid loader designs.”

Over 150 students, with 30 projects, were involved in the Capstone spring showcase. Each team prepared a professional poster to highlight their final results. The showcase highlighted the young talents of the students, as they shared their impacts with fellow students, faculty and friends of the FABE department.

For more information about the Capstone courses offered in FABE, contact our student recruiting team. Or to become an industry sponsor and work with future Capstone teams, contact our course instructors. The department email address is FABE@osu.edu.

 

Jane Fife (fife.X@osu.edu) and Dee Jepsen (jepsen.4@osu.edu) are FABE faculty. Chip Tuson and Randall Reeder provided photos. This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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