Engineering capstone design showcase to be held virtually


By Tessa M. Woodring

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Each semester, Penn State senior engineering students present their capstone design projects at the College of Engineering Learning Factory Capstone Design Showcase. This semester, to coordinate with the shift to all online courses, the showcase will take place entirely online from Friday, May 1, to Friday, May 8.

To make this shift to an all virtual format, the faculty and staff of the Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory set out on a mission to create an innovative and easy to navigate website. Students will upload their completed projects to the website, where the projects will be displayed for public viewing. From there, their projects will be evaluated and considered by a panel of industry experts for numerous awards.

“The online format will provide opportunities for a much broader engagement with the showcase,” said Matt Parkinson, director of The Learning Factory and professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering. “We are already reaching out to K-12 teachers in Pennsylvania, for example. Logistics issues that made experiencing the showcase impossible in the past are no longer relevant. Family and friends can also join in. We’re excited about the possibilities.”

Projects will be awarded in the traditional categories — Best Poster and Best Project — as well as the BP People’s Choice, which students will compete for using social media this year. The project that receives the most “likes” on social media will receive an award.

Short videos will also receive awards, including in a new, “No Holds Barred” category. For this award, students are encouraged to “stuff the ballot box” using any manner they can dream up. Winners will be selected by both how many votes they are able to secure and the ingenuity they showed in getting them. The full list of award winners will be announced on May 8. The winners will then be showcased on the website.

According to Parkinson, shifting to an all-online format did have its challenges, but these challenges were seen as opportunities for the participating students, industry and faculty to show their engineering skills.

“We’re engineering designers, so we’re all about prototyping,” Parkinson said. “We aren’t content to just tread water until this episode is behind us. Instead, we view this as a fantastic opportunity to try things we never would have imagined in the past. We’re already seeing possibilities we hadn’t considered before.”

Numerous individuals jumped in to help convert to an online showcase, according to Parkinson. Project sponsors and faculty from across the College of Engineering provided suggestions to make the new format exciting and efficient for the students.

“We love the camaraderie and energy around the in-person showcase, so we will obviously miss that,” Parkinson said. “This was to be the 25th anniversary showcase — which we were also eagerly anticipating — so we wanted to honor that heritage as well as provide a meaningful opportunity for the students to share their work.”


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Megan Lakatos