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Finding tangible solutions through teamwork

In its first year as an approved course, the Interdisciplinary Capstone course brought together engineering students across disciplines to work in creative design teams.

Videos and photo by Ray Meese

Students in the College of Engineering now have the opportunity to cap off their undergraduate education with a highly transdisciplinary, project-focused course.

The Interdisciplinary Capstone (IDC) course, housed in the Department of Engineering Education, was formally introduced to students this past fall after two successful pilot years.  

The two-semester experience emulates how real-world engineers meet project milestones: by communicating and partnering with colleagues who specialize in a variety of engineering disciplines. As part of IDC, students can showcase the skills they've learned during their academic career and develop a fuller understanding of how their discipline-specific experience informs their problem solving approach. With the help of their peers, they learn collaborative skills that generate forward momentum in completing designs.

Nearly 100 senior engineering students participated in projects this year, ranging from partially autonomous vehicles to robotic prosthetics. Here, we delve into some of the cutting-edge designs created by student teams.

Overview: How does the Interdisciplinary Capstone course expand learning?


Hokie Electric Vehicle Team modifies partially autonomous vehicle

The Hokie Electric Vehicle Team spent the year integrating advanced propulsion systems and connected automated vehicle systems into an electric vehicle with Level 2 autonomy. Their project, which emphasized features such as efficiency, safety, consumer appeal, and equity, simulated the vehicle development process currently used in industry, giving students a jump-start on real-world experience. Participating students came to the table with backgrounds in mechanical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science.

Students automate water delivery to microgreens

Engineering students worked together to create a water delivery system for a microgreens hydroponic setup, optimizing the experience for both farmers and their plants. The team's automated system provides water to a crop on a 24/7 basis, making sure the water is safe, healthy, and regularly supplied. The system can measure water characteristics such as temperature and pH level and make automatic adjustments as needed. Students combined their knowledge in industrial and systems engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science.

Students create personalized robotic prosthetic hand for team member's sister

When her sister lost part of her hand in an accident, an engineering student looked to the Interdisciplinary Capstone course as a platform to help. Working in the Terrestrial Robotics Engineering & Controls (TREC) Lab, she and a group of fellow engineers built a prosthetic robotic hand personalized for her sister, who attends Virginia Commonwealth University. The project required expertise in both mechanical and electrical engineering.


If you want to have an impact on our students and faculty like those featured in this magazine, go here to support the College of Engineering. For more information, call (540) 231-3628.