Capstone or Senior Design is the final project class to mark the end of your time as an engineering student. It’s the project that will likely be brought up in interviews and resumes. We’ve all heard about Capstone and how much work it might entail, but what does it actually mean to be in it? Seniors Rachel Mann, Madeline Smerchansky, Bailey Klee, and Nicholas Quan are part of a Capstone team and share some insight about their journey.
Capstone is most similar to BMED 2310; however, Capstone emphasizes working with the client more. “BMED 2310 prepares you for almost every aspect of capstone, but on a smaller scale,” Quan explained. Furthermore, the class dedicates a month of researching the chosen topic or complete user interviews. Then, about two weeks are allotted for brainstorming ideas and seeing if they would work legally. The last month is dedicated to refining the team’s prototype until Capstone Expo, where all teams display their finished products.
The team explains that their device will automate the process of reconnecting the bladder and urethra after a prostatectomy, or the removal of the prostate. There is no other device on the market that does this. Currently, the reconnection is hand sewn which is where most complication occurs after surgery. “Our device, which we named SecURO, will benefit the urologic surgeon completing the reconnection by making the process shorter and easier and it will benefit the patient by reducing complications associated with a poorly completed reconnection,” Mann said.
Teamwork is highly important in Capstone. Teams will face many challenges. “Senior design requires a lot of time outside of class. It’s manageable, but only when all members are honest about the amount of time that they can dedicate to the project. We confronted our issues as soon as they arose to avoid further frustration.” Smerchansky said. The team spent about 20 hours outside of class in the beginning of the semester, but now spends up to 60 as they get closer to Expo. Because of the the extensive time the team spends with each other, it is advised that students choose their teammates wisely. “We had all previously worked together at some point during our time at GT. It is definitely helpful to enjoy spending time with the people on your team.” Mann said.
Furthermore, students need to wary that a lot of time is spent on user interviews and is advised that at least one team member can offer transportation if needed. A skill students will likely gain is knowing how to efficiently articulate their ideas to professionals and/or users. “Professor Rains, Professor Stubbs, and your sponsor have connections to a lot of hospitals and offices in the Atlanta area and can help with initial contact, but it is up to you to continue those conversations to set up meetings. Many teams will start by emailing people. It can be disheartening when you don’t receive many responses, but know that most teams in senior design are in the same boat when it comes to contacting doctors.” Smerchansky said.
A unique aspect about the SecURO team is that they have the opportunity to work with the Mayo Clinic. “The chance to work with a prestigious hospital and outstanding surgeons is an amazing opportunity that adds a lot of value to our professional careers. The Mayo Clinic project is designed for students with a drive for the startup culture,” Quan said. This has been especially beneficial for Klee and Mann who plan on going to medical school afterwards. “ Since we are representing a highly respected sponsor, Mayo Clinic, we hope to live up to expectations and impress everyone we speak to [during expo].” Klee stated.
Smerchansky highlights how important the Capstone experience is to industry as well as its potential to kickstart a career.
“As BMEs, we have a very collaborative industry, so learning how to conduct yourself when working on a team is one of the best ways that this class can prepare you for life after graduation. Conduct yourself professionally when interacting with your team, your professors, your sponsor and anyone you may speak with for the project. Be prepared for the amount of time this class requires. It is worth it, but go into your senior design semester knowing that these projects require a lot of dedication. Lastly, have fun! GT’s BME program is one of the best for a reason, and this class is very unique. Have fun with your project, you never know what you might create and where you can go with it.”