Cook Engineering Design Center
Dartmouth’s Cook Engineering Design Center (CEDC) coordinates industry-sponsored projects for the ENGS 89/90 capstone engineering design course sequence at the Thayer School of Engineering.
Sponsoring a Capstone Project
Why sponsor a project?
When your company sponsors an ENGS 89/90 project, you get an enthusiastic team of advanced engineering students who are motivated to solve problems by applying engineering principles. Over the course of the two ten-week terms and a seven-week interim period, this Thayer School team typically spends between 800 and 1,600 hours on its project, depending on project complexity and team size. The team consists of 3-6 students, at least one faculty advisor, and the course director; the team also has access to other faculty, support staff, and the many resources of Thayer School.
Your proposed project may be an opportunity for your company to add resources to an existing engineering problem, a way for you to explore the next step of a current company project or a way to assign resources to a task that has been postponed for lack of staffing. Your company may also use the opportunity to identify talent for recruiting purposes or initiate longer-term research collaborations with Thayer School faculty.
What makes an ideal project?
The ideal project involves the design of a product, process, or system with clearly defined deliverables. A good project:
- Comes from a sponsor with strong domain expertise and the ability to guide the student team and provide technical support as the students work through the engineering challenges.
- Has a strong design component that allows students to learn and grow through technical innovation and creativity.
- Has well-defined and measurable objectives that can be met in the 26 weeks of the design course sequence.
Each CEDC sponsor contributes $7,500 to Thayer School for their student-selected project.
The CEDC offers guidance to sponsors and student teams to protect the sponsoring company’s proprietary interests.
Successful projects start with realistic expectations that are then refined during the project by discussions between the sponsor and student team and ultimately converge a set of specific quantifiable deliverables.
The results of an ENGS 89/90 project are in the form of prototypes or process demonstrations, experimental data, as well as a written report containing relevant background research, analysis of the problem and proposed solution, and recommendations for next steps. Teams also provide an oral presentation summarizing the work products and findings. Specific deliverables may be one or more of the following:
- Design analyses, reports, and feasibility studies
- Prototype hardware, e.g., product prototypes
- Engineering plans and drawings
- Computer programs, manuals, and data
- Manufacturing process plans
- Demonstrations, videos, and presentations
- Business plans and financial analyses
Sponsors must recognize that progress achieved and quality of results will vary depending on the nature of the project itself, the capabilities of the students, and the clarity of communication between the team and the technical lead from the sponsor. Some projects will result in substantially implemented functional solutions, while others may provide results that have begun to address an industry problem but may require more work by the sponsoring company to fully implement solutions. While Thayer School cannot predict the quality outcomes of any particular project deliverables, it can guarantee that students will give their best efforts to their projects.
- October 1 through November 13
Potential sponsors are encouraged to contact the CEDC. The CEDC staff works with the technical liaison to develop a strong problem description.
- By November 13
The sponsor must submit a complete proposal through the CEDC project submission portal.
- Early January
ENGS 89 begins, proposals are pitched, problems and teams are matched, and projects begin.
CEDC associates are invoiced.
- Early February
Student teams report orally to a professional review board about their understanding of the problem, the current state of the art surrounding potential solutions, and the area in which they intend to focus their efforts. A written report is also provided at this time.
- Early March
Each student team reports to the professional review board on its potential solution to the problem, their attempts to realize the solution, potential obstacles, alternative ideas in case a dead-end is reached, and anticipated timelines for completing the project. A written report is also provided at this time.
- Late March
ENGS 90, the final segment of the course, begins.
- Late April
Each student team reports to the professional review board about its progress to date, including the status of the proposed solution, and how challenges have been overcome.
- Late May
Each student team presents its final report to the professional review board, recapping their work over the two terms and demonstrating the deliverable that solves the problem. A written report is also provided at this time.
History of the Cook Engineering Design Center
Legacy & Origin
The Cook Engineering Design Center was established in 1978 to create a bridge between industry and Thayer School. Several companies signed on to provide financial support and bring in projects for graduate engineering students, who would work in close collaboration with industry representatives.
Former overseer John Brown Cook '29 was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the concept of the Center. After Cook's death in 1979, his widow, Marian Miner Cook, succeeded him as Overseer and made a generous financial gift to support the design center. The Center, originally called INVENTE, was renamed the Cook Engineering Design Center (CEDC).
Impact & Innovation
During its first five years (1979-1984), more companies joined with an increase in industry-funded research. The Cook Center Associates Program was established in 1983 as a mechanism to generate and maintain a continuing relationship between interested companies and Thayer School.
During Dean Elsa Garmire's tenure, the CEDC became a virtual center with a formalized fee structure for projects and processes by which corporate partners were recruited.