Project Sponsor FAQs



Frequently Asked Questions about project sponsorship.

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What is involved in a good project?

  • We are looking for problems requiring engineering solutions.
  • Projects should include several engineering aspects related to our students past seven semesters of rigorous engineering education. (More details on typical engineering design requirements)
  • The scope of the projects should be appropriate for new engineers and solvable in 14 weeks. 
  • The primary emphasis on the project should NOT be laboratory experimentation or research. The 14-week semester allows for only minimal testing and data collection.
  • The projects should have: no obvious solution, appropriate constraints, involve wide-ranging or conflicting technical issues, and address problems not encompassed by current standards and codes.
  • Our students come from three emphasis areas - bioproducts engineering, food engineering, and environmental and ecological engineering (visit Capstone Home Page). Any project related to processing of food or bioproducts, or protecting the natural environment are appropriate. 
  • Projects that do not involve intellectual property or confidentiality. However, if your company is concerned about this aspect of the project please contact the course instructors.
  • Here is a list of Capstone Home Page that might be useful.

For more information, check out "What is ‘Engineering Design’ in a Capstone Project?"

Who makes a Good Sponsor?

Our best sponsors are engineers working in industry who are passionate about educating young engineers. They can, and have, left a lasting impression on our graduating seniors.

Why would your organization participate in this program?

  • You either have a problem to solve or an idea to develop. We have 3-4 intelligent, creative and motivated senior engineering students that have 14 weeks to solve your problem or develop an idea. During the semester, each student commits 140 hours to identifying and clarifying your needs, reviewing existing solutions, brainstorming new options, and designing and engineering the best solution for your problem. Their process will result in a 15-page engineering report (plus appendix) including a detailed problem statement, literature review, decision matrix highlighting the recommended design solution, and a preliminary design and economic analysis of the proposed solution.
  • Through your participation you will be able to assess the technical skills and personal attributes of 3-4 senior engineering students that may be great potential hires that fit well within your company culture and goals.
  • Students working on your project have access to UMN faculty members, a prototyping lab space and other UMN campus resources.
  • Working with this program may fit the mission of your company to help train and develop future engineers to take on the many challenges facing the planet.

What motivates the students?

  • Students are looking forward to applying their engineering skills to open-ended complex problems. 
  • Students want to impress future employers.
  • Students realize the importance of experience solving real-world problems.
  • Students use this Capstone Design Project to enhance their resume.

What is my organization's obligation to the project?

  • Submit a simple online Project Proposal Form with contact information and a brief background and summary of the problem. 
  • Meet (phone or zoom) with course instructors to provide more project details (e.g. problem statement, project constraints, realistic goals, and engineering attributes of the project). This insures a good fit for the the students.
  • Organizations submitting projects must commit to 
    • ~1 hour per week of engineering mentorship for the students. These meetings are either face-to-face meetings or Zoom meetings with a practicing engineer who helps clarify the problem, provide critical data, address project constraints, and help students effectively navigate the engineering design process. This is also a time for mentors to give students a taste of life after graduation. Many sponsors give students a tour of their R&D or manufacturing facilities.
    • The mentor will sign off on all final reports and presentations as you would with any reports submitted under your management.
    • The mentor will communicate any issues or concerns with the students to the course instructors.
    • Mentors should not give students the problem solution, but rather help them navigate an engineering design process.
  • There are currently no financial requirements for project sponsors. However, organizations have funded prototype development, supplied specialized testing equipment, or funded site visits for students in order to clarify the problem or help develop a solution.

Who can submit a project?

  • Any person, government, non-profit, or business can submit project ideas. We give preference to organizations that do engineering work and have an engineer serving as the project mentor. If the proposing entity has no engineer on staff, it may be possible to arrange a partnership with an engineering faculty member in our department. This agreement is between the entity and the specific engineering faculty member.
  • Students can also submit a project ideas. If the idea fits the course criteria the instructors will do their best to make it happen.

What is the role of the UMN Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering?

  • Course instructors ensure that the students stay on task and on time with their projects.
  • Instructors guide students on engineering ethics, global cultural and social issues, economics, teamwork, report writing, engineering design, and project management.
  • Faculty in the department are available to answer questions from all capstone students. These engineering faculty have diverse skills and can provide some oversight on engineering calculations.
  • The Department Makerspace is available for any prototyping that might be needed by students. Any materials used in prototyping would be purchased by the project sponsor. Students have access to a variety of other lab spaces and lab equipment through the University of Minnesota.

How to Participate:

  • Begin by filling out this online Project Proposal Form
  • Expect the course instructor to contact you within 3 business days to get more background on the project details and scope.
  • Note that we often have more good projects than we have project teams. Students help decide which projects are selected by choosing projects that fit their interests.

What do we mean by mentoring and advising design teams?

  • As an experienced engineer we are expecting you to develop a supportive and encouraging environment in which you can share your experience, knowledge and wisdom about the engineering process and the project to help guide the design team in useful directions. 
  • As an advisor you can offer suggestions regarding the design process and ideas.
  • You may find asking the team members questions as a good way to advise them to consider other important issues and ideas that the team may be failing to consider.
  • Mentors and advisors are not to direct the team’s work, decide on the design solution before the decision matrix analysis is complete, or do design analysis for the team.

How is the course managed and organized?

Here are more course details.