Senior Design Capstone Project FAQs

What is Ecological Engineering?

See the Ecological Engineering Undergraduate Program webpage.


What do Ecological Engineers do? 

Ecological engineers deal with the application of ecological principles to the engineering natural and human systems. The focus is on taking a systems perspective and develop holistic solutions to complex problems. 


What are the objectives of senior design sequence? 

The primary objective of the design sequence is to provide students with hands-on experience in solving the kind of complex open-ended design problems they are likely to encounter in ecological engineering practice, including satisfying physical, legal, economic, social and environmental constraints. Other objectives include providing the students with experience in the real-world application of mathematics, science, engineering economics, ethics and other disciplines related to engineering analysis and design, and a clearer perspective on the value of research in addressing contemporary problems in engineering design.  


How are design problems selected? 

Senior design problems are very carefully selected using criteria such as:

  • Focus on real world problems

  • Relevance to Ecological Engineering discipline

  • Involvement of real clients

  • Challenging design with many alternative solutions and trade-offs

  • Design problem that can be addressed with the current skills of seniors in Ecological engineering

  • Ability to develop prototypes and test given the constraints of the class time


What do the teams actually do in this course sequence?

The students have to not only investigate alternative technologies, but use their ecological engineering background to select appropriate technologies and defend this before an external expert panel. After this they design prototypes to test their proposed design, build and test the prototype and validate their theoretical designs with experimental data. The teams have to perform detailed technical feasibility, economic viability calculations and ensure that their designs meet all local, state and federal regulations. The teams present their results to their peers, OSU faculty, external experts and general public during various events.


How did this course evolve over time? 

This course has been a learning experience for instructors as much as it was for students. Particularly, since the Ecological Engineering undergraduate degree program was the first such program in the world in 2007 and many of the approaches had to be developed from ground-up. This course has been taught by Drs. Ganti S. Murthy and John Selker from 2009-2016, as well as Drs. Ganti Murthy and Roger Ely in 2016-2017. The course has significantly evolved from a pen-paper design based design problems in the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 to a challenging design sequence with process control, prototype testing, field testing and industrial client involvements in later years.

Communication aspects of this course have been significantly improved over time. Communication with clients through biweekly memos, informal presentations to peers in class, brainstorming sessions to develop and describe approaches to problem-solving, presentation to peers, general public, and external expert panels, and responding to critique in formal settings and practicing oral and written communication in formal and semi-formal settings are part of the design sequence.