COVID-19 Response

Senior Solutions

A closer look at the overhaul of the Senior Design Projects transition to an online platform

Female student in engineering lab

Student Success

icon of a calendarApril 7, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Michael Downes

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The Senior Design Project is the last step for Oakland University engineering students to graduate. Oakland works closely with a group of corporations to get graduating seniors acclimated to their careers.

The program is made up of 150 students broken up into 19 groups. Each group works on a different project, solving different real-world issues. While they do spend time in the classroom, a majority of their work is done in the lab. That became an issue for projects dependent on lab work when campus shut down due to COVID-19.

“Once we got word that campus was shutting down,” explains Michael Latcha, Ph.D., an associate professor of mechanical engineering, “some groups were able to grab their equipment from the lab and move it offsite. The groups that were tied to the use of university equipment would have to change their projects.”

With limited access to equipment and groups left without much work to do, the program would have to reinvent itself. 

“At the point where we could not use the senior design lab,” says Dr. Latcha, “we decided that the physical design aspect of the project was over. Write up what you can, if you need to continue modeling or simulating, you can do that.”

Outside of physical builds, students would need to provide progress reports and groups would give oral updates weekly. “The written progress reports are being turned in via moodle. The oral progress reports from the groups have transitioned to three to five PowerPoint slides.”

The biggest change to the program happens at the end of the semester. The School of Engineering and Computer Science puts on an expo to show off the projects the students have worked on. 

“Students set up an area to show off their projects,” says Dr. Latcha. “We invite alumni, members of advisory boards to see them. We use this as a recruiting tool, both students, community and sponsorships for new projects. Obviously, we can’t do that.”

Instead, students are going to create posters of their projects that the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences Career Services are going to post on their LinkedIn page.

“We will invite our past and potential corporate sponsors to view these posters,” says Dr. Latcha. “Students will have access to the posts to comment and have open discussions on their processes. We are going to do what we can to keep the same flavor of showing off what the students have done and to get corporations interested.”

Discover other ways OU faculty have moved their classes online. Find out how your can support OU during COVID-19 at oakland.edu/giving.

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