Time & Location

  • Lecture designated meeting time Mondays, 3:10-5:00 PM, 
  • Most lectures will be virtual: Online via WEBEX, or recorded lectures/notes accessible via the course D2L Site
  • Assigned room is 101 Reid Hall for the times we can meet face-to-face

Catalog listing

ME Program EMEC 489R. Mechanical Engineering Design Capstone I. 2 Credits. (1 Lec, 1 Rct) F, S

  • PREREQUISITE: EGEN 310R, ME majors only. COREQUISITE: Concurrent enrollment in or prior completion of EMEC 321, EMEC 326, EMEC 342, EMEC 360, EMEC 361, EMEC 445. Senior capstone design experience in Mechanical Engineering. Students, under the guidance of a faculty supervisor, solve real-world design problems.

MET Program ETME 489. Capstone: Mechanical Engineering Technology Design I. 2 Credits. (1 Lec, 1 Rct) F,S

  • PREREQUISITE: EGEN 310, for MET majors only with senior standing. COREQUISITE: ETME 303, EMEC 360, EGEN 325 or EGEN 330, ETME 310, ETME 311, ETME 340, ETME 341. Senior capstone design experience in Mechanical Engineering Technology. Students, under the guidance of a faculty supervisor, solve real-world design problems.


Robb Larson, Associate Professor, M&IE

Craig Shankwitz, Associate Teaching Professor, M&IE

Useful Links

Machine/Welding Shop Links:

General Information

The capstone course sequence in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology (EMEC/ETME 489 and EMEC/ETME 499) provide the culminating experience in undergraduate education for these two programs. In these courses, students to draw upon previous coursework to solve real world design problems in a team setting. Projects include the challenges of project management, optimizing limited resources, meeting strict schedules and working productively within a team structure - all while dealing with mechanical systems, designs, and components representative of those encountered in industrial or research environments.

The first semester course (EMEC/ETME489) focuses on implementing the engineering design process, system & component analysis, along with project managment and planning, while the second semester class (EMEC/ETME499) emphasis is on prototype fabrication & assembly, and then testing the design. Communication elements are key in Capstone: Written engineering reports are prepared in a standard format, and formal oral presentations are important course elements.

Course Learning Outcomes / Expected Performance Criteria
  • Understand and properly apply the engineering design process to a real-world project provided by an industrial sponsor, including interpretation of customer needs, performing appropriate background research, generating requirements and specifications, identifying and accommodating all system interfaces, exploring alternative solutions, and selecting the optimum solution.
  • Choose and perform appropriate analysis to validate designs
  • Create computer-generated layouts, models, detail and assembly drawings
  • Design components considering available and appropriate manufacturing techniques
  • Anticipate problems utilizing failure modes analysis methods, and use the results to design failsafe systems
  • Utilize industry-standard project management methodology including the use of task lists, gantt charts, critical path methods, electronic communication methodologies, and similar project management tools to meet deadlines and enable timely completion of project tasks
  • Interact with sponsors, university faculty, suppliers and industry representatives, and with student peers in a professional and respectful manner
  • Prepare and present professional-quality memos, oral reports, and written reports
  • Be familiar with the design resources and journals available in order to maintain currency with new technology and apply new methods and techniques to design processes and products in industry.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work cooperatively and interactively with others in a team environment to complete a sponsored design project.
  • Demonstrate/Improve ability to utilize the computer to solve engineering problems
  • Demonstrate/Improve ability to make engineering judgments
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the implications of engineering issues and engineering decisions including ethical, societal, environmental considerations


  • No new textbook is specified for purchase, but most students will utilize several texts from previous classes - including a design text (e.g. Mott, Spotts, Shigley, etc.), a Technical Drawing book, a Materials Science text, and - depending upon the project - textbooks from other engineering courses such as Thermodynamics, Fluids, Heat transfer, Mechanics of Materials, and Instrumentation . Many students will also refer to the user's guides or operations manuals for various software packages like LabVIEW, Mathcad, Matlab, Excel, Solidworks and others. Your instructor or group faculty advisor may recommend additional resources.


  • The weekly virtual lecture is used to review the design process, discuss the identification & use of engineering resources, work on scheduling & project management tools, configuration control, the role of analysis in design, presentation methods, report writing, and other pertinent topics. The lecture also provides a venue for occasional guest lecturers from industry to present important career material to the class. Attendance is expected, and many important course details or assignments will be covered only during the lecture period.

Design Groups

  • Students are placed on design teams by the instructor during the first week of class, depending upon their project selections. Group size is typically 3 or 4 students, although larger or smaller groups are sometimes warranted for certain projects. An integral part of the learning experience is to deal with the group dynamics issues that often arise within a group project setting. In the MIE department we strive to create interdisciplinary groups wherever possible, and multi-disciplinary design groups that combine ME's and MET's are the norm. Several groups will also include members from EE, ECE, CS, and Physics programs. Informal interactions with students and faculty from other disciplines are common and encouraged.

Project Sponsors, Faculty Supervision

  • Most Projects are sponsored by a business or individual, and each group will be assigned a Primary Faculty Supervisor. All Capstone group members must coordinate with their assigned group supervisor and project sponsor as soon as possible after the projects are assigned.
  • Every group is required to meet with their primary faculty supervisor weekly. Weekly design group "consultation" meetings with their advisor usually last for about 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon topics discussed. Students discuss the status of their project including results accomplished during the previous week and their plans for the coming week. These items are to be summarized in a weekly progress memo which is to be handed to the supervisor at the beginning of each meeting. The memo initiates discussions and provides a written record of progress and status.
  • The supervisor's responsibility is to help direct the efforts of the design team, not to solve the problem for them. The supervisor may suggest alternative approaches to the solution, sources of information the team may have overlooked, strategies for successful completion of the project, etc. Consultation meetings should clarify group member tasks; every team member should understand their responsibility for conducting individual activities during the coming week. Professionalism is expected at all times during the relatively informal consultation meetings: Exemplary preparation, attitude, promptness, thoroughness, and quality of work are expected. Attendance at consultation meetings is mandatory, per the procedures dictated by your faculty advisor.

Reporting Requirements

  1. Project Management Plan - The project management plan is formal, written documentation of the scheme your group will use to ensure timely completion and submission of deliverables, as defined in the section below. Project Management Plans will be due during the fourth week of class.
  2. Initial Design Review / Requirements Review [IDR]. Each group must contact their sponsor, and meet/communicate as necessary to establish a common understanding of the basic requirements of the design. Any constraints to problem solutions must be identified quickly to avoid dead ends later. The results of the IDR will be documented as "Level 1 Requirements" that must be agreed to by all parties to permit continuation of project design work.
  3. Preliminary Design Review Presentation [PDR]. Each group will deliver an interim status report to the class. This "Preliminary Design Review" will consist of a class presentation plus question & answer session to an audience consisting of instructors and course assistants, faculty advisors, sponsors and classmates. The emphasis will be on peer scrutiny and feedback on project direction, status and goals.
  4. Critical Design Review Presentation [CDR]. Each group will prepare and deliver a professional-quality final oral presentation. Attendees at the final oral presentation will include members of the ME and MET capstone classes, the instructors, M&IE faculty advisors, and any other interested individuals.
  5. Written Report - Each design team will prepare one professional-quality written report documenting this semester. Draft chapters are collected throughout the semester. The compiled written formal report is due during the last week of class (before finals week.)

    The IDR, PDR, and CDR sessions give group members the opportunity to develop presentation skills that will be useful in their careers, since these reviews are industry-standard. Computer-projected visuals are the norm: Plan on using Microsoft Powerpoint or similar media-based presentation software. 

Project Management

All students are expected to maintain good organization of their project work during the semester. Each group is to create a PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLAN to guide project activities throughout the two-term capstone sequence. The project management plan is formal, written documentation of the scheme your group will use to ensure timely completion, control, and submission of deliverables including any and all documents, fabrication of parts, presentation of results, etc. Project plans vary slightly in scope from team to team, but all generally include these elements:

  • A complete, Project Schedule in GANTT CHART form, updated regularly
  • Term Meeting schedule with times, locations - considering team members individual schedules
  • Task list with specific, equitably divided individual task assignments
  • Definition of how the group will record important design and project configuration decisions (e.g. Google Docs, Drop-boxes, or other electronic file sharing methods.)
  • Schedule of group leadership assignment, and the deliverables to be submitted under each rotating group lead
    • The group leadership role is to be defined in the project managment plan, scheduled on a rotating basis. The individual holding the group chair position is responsible for keeping each project moving forward and keeping all group members on-task. The position is to be rotated so that each group member ‘runs the show’ for a ~2 week period until each group member has had the opportunity to lead. After that time the rotation continues throughout the term. Thus, the number of sessions that each group member has the reigns will vary depending upon the size of the design team.  Responsibilities include generating & maintaining an accurate and up-to-date Gantt chart (schedule) and associated Network diagram (to map inter-dependencies), ensuring that all required class deliverables (memos, report segments) are submitted on-time, sponsor communications, and transitionmanagement with new group leader.

Another traditional project management element commonly used by engineers is the Design Journal. A design journal is a permanently bound notebook which contains dated entries of all your responsibilities, agreements, notes, sketches, calculations, doodles, and other records of your thoughts and activities related to your design project. A well-kept journal is a central, historical record of project activity and information, decisions, calculations, tasks and obligations throughout a project. Further, a journal serves to document level of effort, and can be used for time management, budgeting and billing purposes. In case of a legal dispute over design patent rights or product liability questions, a dated, permanently bound journal can be submitted as legal evidence to the court.

Other items contributing to good organization include saving a file or binder with printed copies of important meeting notes and email communications, backup disks containing computer files, etc. The journals and other personal documentation elements may be reviewed periodically throughout the semester as a means to enhance communication among team members, advisors, and instructors.

Non-Traditional Design/Build Projects

There are projects each semester for which the traditional schedule that is generally used for Capstone I and Capstone II simply does not fit. For these projects, the students are required to generate an alternate schedule of deliverables across the semester timeline.Participation in a non-traditional project does not relieve the student of any obligations from course performance; therefore, these deliverables must not be fewer in number than those in the traditional schedule. Identification of alternate deliverables can be made in conjunction with the teams advisor, and must be captured in the project management plan and approved by the course instructors.

Performance and Grading

  • Course grades are determined from points gathered during the term. Points accrue on both an individual and team basis in the following categories.
Point Total 200

Individual performance - including group leader grade

20 pts

Draft report section contents or assigned deliverables (team grade):

  1. Problem Statement. Includes IDR summary, with  "Level 1 Requirements"
  2. Background
  3. Specifications
  4. Alternatives
  5. FMEA
  6. Analysis Appendix
  7. Drawing Package Appendix
  8. Manufacturing Appendix - Steps / Planning / parts orders completed

5 pts each

X 8

Project Management - Planning & Execution

1. Planning: Including Gantt-chart schedule, completion/control/submission of deliverables, ID of 
group chairman for specified time increments, methods for sharing files, document management, compilation and dissemination of meeting notes, etc.
2. Execution: Group performance in the categories above.

10 pts each 

X 2

Preliminary Design Review (team grade) 20
Final Written Report (team grade) 30
Critical Design Review (team grade) 30
Faculty Advisor input (individual grade) 40
  • Timely submission of deliverables is key to success. Expect significant point deductions for any work submitted after the due date.
  • Peer Evaluations will determine whether adjustments to the above point totals are necessary, based on the performance of individuals during the term.
  • While the above grade categories are listed separately, they are in fact inter-related: For instance, a well-organized and presented report eases the evaluation of design process and results. Good project management skills and procedures help the group to make good decisions and keep on task. And effective teamwork supports group progress in all areas.
  • The traditional scale (below) will be used for grading, with minor modifications at the discretion of the instructor. (Plus and Minus grading may be used for borderline cases.)
To Earn Letter Grade You must earn this percentage
A 100% to 90%
B 89.99% to 80%
C 79.99% to 70%
D 69.99% to 60%
F 59.99% or Below

C- Policy:

Effective Fall 2005, a C- or better must be achieved for all required courses, in order to earn credit in that course towards graduation. 

Academic Integrity Expectations

This syllabus, course lectures and presentations, and any course materials provided throughout this term are protected by U.S. copyright laws.  Students enrolled in the course may use them for their own research and educational purposes.  However, reproducing, selling or otherwise distributing these materials without written permission of the copyright owner is expressly prohibited, including providing materials to commercial platforms such as Chegg or CourseHero.  Doing so may constitute a violation of U.S. copyright law as well as MSU’s Code of Student Conduct.

One of the most important values of an academic community is the balance between the free flow of ideas and the respect for the intellectual property of others. Researchers do not use one another's research without permission; scholars and students always use proper citations in papers; professors may not circulate or publish student papers without the writer's permission; and students may not circulate or post materials (handouts, exams, syllabi --any class materials) from their classes unless they have received prior written permission of the instructor. 

Any test, paper or report submitted by you and that bears your name is presumed to be your own original work that has not previously been submitted for credit in another course unless you obtain prior written approval to do so from your instructor. In all of your assignments, including your homework or drafts of papers, you may use words or ideas written by other individuals in publications, web sites, or other sources, but only with proper attribution. If you are not clear about academic integrity expectations for completing an assignment or taking a test or examination, be sure to seek clarification from your instructor or teaching assistant (TA) beforehand.


Plagiarism (according to Meriam Webster) is “to steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one's own.”  Indeed, any sentences or paragraph taken verbatim from the writing of (or interviews with) any other person or persons, or from your own writing that has been published or submitted elsewhere, must be placed in quotation marks and their source must be clearly identified.

Changing the wording of a sentence or passage slightly does not evade the requirement for citation. More generally, whenever you are drawing an important argument or insight from someone else, even if you reword it into your own words, a reference to the source is required.

If you have any questions about using and citing sources, you are expected to ask for clarification. 

Student Conduct Code

Section 420 of the Student Conduct Code ( describes academic misconduct as including but not limited to plagiarism, cheating, multiple submissions, or facilitating others’ misconduct. Possible sanctions for academic misconduct range from an oral reprimand to expulsion from the university.

Section 430 of the Student Conduct Code ( allows the instructor to impose the following sanctions for academic misconduct: oral reprimand; written reprimand; an assignment to repeat the work or an alternate assignment; a lower or failing grade on the particular assignment or test; or a lower grade or failing grade in the course. More serious sanctions require a Conduct Board hearing.

GTA Support

This class is fortunate to have the support of graduate student teaching assistants (GTAs) to assist and facilitate with student learning.  These TAs should be treated with respect and all interactions should be professional. The MSU Student Code of Conduct (  requires this of all students. Violations of this policy with TAs (or anyone else) will not be tolerated and will be handled according to the procedures described in the policy.  TAs have very specific assignments from the course instructor and therefore may not have comprehensive knowledge of all course requirements and content. If questions arise requiring clarification of class content or subject material, please direct them to the course instructor.  In their instruction role, the TAs may be responsible for assigning grades.  If a student disagrees with the decision made by the TA then they are to bring that concern directly to the course instructor and not challenge the TA regarding their decision.