College-wide Senior Design Competition: A Motivating Approach

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Capstone Design Course Conference


Up until five years ago, capstone senior design project in the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was mostly an individual student effort. Students were not necessarily expected to produce a working prototype by the end of one year capstone course. With a view to encourage commercially viable interdisciplinary and motivate the students to bring out their creative spirit without fear of lack of resources, our college began a college-wide senior design competition at the end of every semester. The competition is sponsored by Harriet and Fred Cox, a local philanthropist. The departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering offer two-course sequence senior design courses. By the end of the first semester, students should finalize their design and present a budget for creating a prototype in the second semester. Typically, a project is funded up to 85% of its total cost. At the end of the second semester, students have to participate in the competition by presenting their project along with a poster summarizing the highlights of their design. The projects and the posters are evaluated by three or four engineers from the local industry. The criteria for evaluation are: (i) innovation, (ii) potential for commercialization/ implementation, (iii) technical merit, (iv) clarity and soundness of the project, (v) oral presentation and (vi) poster presentation. Interdisciplinary projects are given a separate award. Additionally, the judges are given the opportunity to provide us their thoughts individually and collectively as a group. The evaluation data and comments are passed back to the students as a constructive feedback. Prize monies raging from $2500 to $500 along with medallions are awarded to the winners in an industrially sponsored “Senior Design Dinner” event in May, every year. This event is usually attended by about 300 local entrepreneurs and engineers and features an entrepreneur as a keynote speaker. The data is also used as one of the tools of external evaluation of our undergraduate degree programs for ABET purposes. Based on our past experiences, we are in the process of developing a Technology Commercialization Minor. We will also encourage students to participate in a state-wide Business Plan competition.


Engineering design – Study and teaching; School contests


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