Advice From Predecessors
Below is a selection of advice from previous years' students, taken anonymously from their close-out memos:
Two semesters of relying on other people’s efforts made me realize that I can’t do everything on my own. Teamwork was essential and I learned how to work with others.
If I could have a go at this project again I would seek to develop more personal relationships with my teammates from the very beginning. My teammates already had preexisting relationships and while I did not feel excluded, I could have put more effort forth from the beginning to enable us to work even better together.
The advice I would give to the next class is to start early and work consistently. There were many times after a presentation or a report was due when the group wanted to take a few days away from the project in order to mentally “reset”. These days would turn into a week before we realized it and then another milestone was due right around the corner
People were the most useful resource I had. Declaring people as a “resource” seems callous, and you cannot treat them as such. Be nice to the technicians or subject matter experts, no matter how intimidating or rude they may be, because they will help you get the right answer or build your prototype (even if it is the night before it is due). Realize that they are smarter than you and do not try to convince them otherwise.
Work hard and work often. Capstone day comes faster than you would believe and even though first semester has a lot of deadlines and requirements you still need to work on actually completing the project.
Pick a capstone you think you will like even if it seems challenging. This project was extremely challenging and took a lot of trouble shooting but at the same time the excitement at each milestone energized me to keep working through the tough spots.
I would tell them to get started quickly so that you can try and have all of your unexpected setbacks and redesigns as soon as possible.
I would tell the next class to have a fabrication plan put in place in December. Then immediately start building second semester. Try to have as much testing done as possible, so you know what you are building.
I think that assigning more specific roles within the team for the project would be a great step. Personally, I think one area of the project, whether it is gas output, gasification process, or trash characterization would have been beneficial. I think this would have helped the team confront tasks more effectively as certain individuals could have been accountable for different sections. I personally could have benefited from this and managed my time better to be a more contributing member.
Choose to work with a smaller group. Social loafing is harder and organization and coordination is easier. Also, ensure all parts and equipment are obtained before the second semester. Finally, narrow the objective of a large project so that the task is more manageable.
To the next class, my advice would be to take pride and ownership in your work. Your capstone is the first major reflection of not only your engineering competency but also your leadership, professionalism, and work ethic. Use it as a chance to learn, improve, and show what you’re made of.
I would definitely talk to the customer more. I would go as far as say that it should be mandatory that the group meet with the customer in person at the half way point to ensure that the project is going in the right direction.