Design Projects

Design Projects for Student Teams

The goal of the senior design projects is to provide materials science and engineering undergraduates with a practical and realistic senior design experience. The department has developed a program by which senior students work closely with industry leaders on real materials problems.

The objective of this design course is not only to learn and practice the methods of engineering design, but also to carry through with synthesis, testing and evaluation. This experience often provides students with their first opportunity to work with engineers in industry.

Engineers and managers in industry have the opportunity to contribute directly to the formal education of engineers and give suggestions about the content of design courses.2014_isu_engineering_162

Course Structure

MAT E 413/414 is a two-semester course in which materials engineering students work on industry sponsored projects. Offered in both the fall and spring semesters, students begin by learning the fundamentals of engineering design and materials selection before teaming to address a real-world design problem. Working with a faculty mentor and project sponsors, teams collaborate to define the customer needs, consider constraints, develop and implement potential design solutions and test and evaluate the results. The projects culminate in a final written and oral report presented to faculty, industry sponsors, and peers. Some projects start in mid-October and end in early May and others start in mid-March and end in early December.

Potential Projects

A successful project doesn’t always involve making something, though it might. A potential project could be evaluating an existing or developing a new material or process.

All proposed projects should include an element of creative problem solving and iterative design, including analysis and recommendations for further optimization.

When evaluating a potential project, please consider the following:

  • Projects should be relevant to the company.
  • Projects should include a set of long-range objectives as well as a set of clear short-term objectives that are achievable by students within the project timeframe.
  • Each project needs an industrial partner to provide the student group with project objectives and criteria for success.

What is Involved?

In addition to a project description that highlights key objectives, constraints, and metrics for success, companies are asked to provide the following:

  • Financial Commitment: Companies are asked to commit up to $1000 as a reimbursement for itemized costs incurred by the student team during the course of the project. Company approval is required before a group can go over budget.
  • Resources: This may include samples, supplies, or specialized equipment. An engineer within the company should be assigned as a primary point of contact for the team. Student travel to the company and/or having company personnel visit Iowa State should also be considered. It is important for the company to commit an individual or individuals who are knowledgeable about the project and have the time to serve as an industry mentor for the student group.
  • Deliverables: This includes items such as reports/analyses, prototypes, models, software, data, etc.
  • Confidential Information and/or Intellectual Property agreements: While it is the University’s preference that sponsors make a reasonable effort to avoid the inclusion of confidential information in these projects, there is a Non-Disclosure Agreement form available in cases where this isn’t possible. While the University encourages sponsors to permit students to retain their intellectual property rights, there is a Special Intellectual Property Agreement form available to permit the sponsor to obtain ownership rights

Benefits to Companies

The benefits to participating companies could include:

  • Student teams providing insights into existing problems.
  • Exploring new concepts and processes through a low-cost, low-risk investigation.
  • Engaging with students as potential employees, evaluating their engineering and communication skills.
  • Gaining exposure on campus as senior students are considering employment opportunities.
  • Having access to equipment and expertise not available at their own site.

Benefits to Students

The benefits to participating students could include: 

  • Students gaining experience partnering with industry leaders to investigate important problems within a company
  • Engaging with industry professionals who could be potential employers
  • Participating in practical, innovative resolution strategies and design
  • Gaining experience working with equipment in MSE
  • Receiving wisdom, advice, and feedback from mentors from each partnering company
  • Exploring new concepts and processes through a low-cost, low-risk investigation
  • Gaining communication skills by excelling in team collaboration and presenting final results to your class 

Examples of Design Project Abstracts

                     sponsored this senior design project to determine if low-temperature solid-state diffusion bonding of tin (Sn) and copper (Cu) for solder joints in electronic packaging was a potential method for high-reliability systems. Using the custom-made die-press and knowledge gained from training, the group completed testing and analysis of the samples. Twenty-one samples were analyzed using a scanning electron microscope (SEM); of which the samples that underwent heat treatment for longer periods of time under higher pressures had a larger percentage of bonding than those a lower parameters.

__________ sponsored this project to develop a method to remove gold from the intensifier solution used to weatherproof their product. The process must be safe. The solution exiting as waste should have less gold in it than it currently does. It is not necessary to extract elemental gold for reuse/sale from the process but it is desirable if cost effective.

                                is sponsoring this project to characterize the mechanical properties of their copper-nickel-tin alloy as a function of heat treatment. In particular,                 would like Iowa State University to identify the ideal parameters to obtain complete microstructural homogenization. Iowa State University will characterize the mechanical properties by examining microstructure and obtaining hardness measurements. Heat treatment of the material has begun, and the group anticipates this portion of the experiment to be completed by the end of March. Upon completion of heat treatments, samples will be quenched in either slow-quenching oil or a brine solution and aged at various times. After this part of the experiment is completed, the material’s mechanical properties will be thoroughly examined with the final goal of identifying the ideal parameters for complete microstructural homogenization.

Information for Companies

Senior Design Handout

Project Information Information Sheet

For more information and questions, contact Martha Selby