International Capstone Design

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Course Design

USF’s international capstone design project classes (two 3 credit courses) allow seniors to obtain university credit for working on engineering projects in the developing world. Design and construction projects include water supply, water resources/management; site master planning; site reclamation; solid waste management, and wastewater treatment, school classrooms, and school site master planning to benefit communities. Projects for majors other than civil/environmental engineering, such as biomedical, mechanical, electrical engineering and business, health, communications, education, etc. will be available.

In the summer course, students spend two weeks in-country, working on a construction site to learn local tools, materials, and techniques in addition to performing the design project needs assessment, client meetings and design data gathering.  Teams of 3-4 students work on their own design project. For teams, each day in-country involves actual construction labor and daily administration and management of the jobsite or gathering design data.  Meetings are held with the “client,” mentors and other design professionals to gather data required to complete their respective design.   During the “siesta” and in the evening, teams discuss observations and challenges or analyze progress and develop team plans for the following day. Team members may address issues in productivity assessment, materials management, construction progress forecasting, and investigate or discuss design feasibility, strategies in data gathering, or materials and construction techniques.  Time is often spent making comparisons to traditional US industry practices. The in-country time is spent on the construction site or working on team projects, not touring the country. Due to the nature of the class NO drinking or smoking is allowed.

During the fall course, on-campus, students take the gathered data and produce design option feasibility studies, culminating in an engineering report recommending a final design.  It is assumed that the international “client” accepts the recommendation and students complete construction documents.  The engineering report includes the following:  feasibility evaluation & assumptions; development and analysis of alternate design solutions; code analysis and review;  discussion and analysis of potential design solutions including associated impact analysis, costs, economic and health factors, social impact, safety, constructability, sustainability, reliability, aesthetics, ethics;  proposed construction schedule;  engineering estimate, cost/benefit analysis;  design calculations;  and references. Students also complete construction contract documents as would be prepared by a design firm in industry: final construction drawings and a project manual including bid documents and specifications.

Both courses are structured to emulate the business of a design/build firm in industry, an environment the student will find themselves in within 6-12 months after the class experience.

One of the most important aspects of the courses is that students experience the evolution of a project in an industry situation from conception through completion of final design drawings and specifications. Learning the project process is more important than the project type undertaken (structures, transportation, geotechnical, water).  In addition, students work with developing world communities where modern technology is not always available, requiring thinking “outside the box” and adaptation to local practices to complete an effective project solution.