Capstone Design Project

Industry and University working together to improve Civil and Construction Engineering Education

The Capstone Design Project is a university and industry partnership which produces highly qualified civil and construction engineers by integrating analysis, design, specifications and codes, construction methods and business realities into the civil and construction engineering program. The teaching approach features active learning and real-world problems and experience using fundamental civil engineering principles and state‐of-the‐art modeling, analysis and design tools.  The Capstone Design Project offers students an experience that directly prepares them for careers in civil engineering design and construction by increasing their technical expertise and developing critical interpersonal, teamwork, and leadership skills.


ABET requires all graduates to complete a capstone design project which requires students to apply their knowledge and experience toward real-world projects in a team-oriented environment. In the Civil and Construction Engineering (CCE) majors, the Capstone Design Program is implemented in a two-course sequence. The first course covers the project definition, scope, planning and scheduling of the design process.  The second course includes project analysis and design and culminates with a formal public presentation and written design report. 

General guidance and constraints

Requirements vary from project to project and must include analysis and design at least two civil engineering focus areas (structures, geotechnical, transportation, water resources, environmental, and construction).  Students must also incorporate an analysis of alternatives for some aspect of the design and must include considerations for sustainability.  

Typical major tasks could include but are not limited to:

  • Planning and site development including layout options
  • Modeling and analysis using software tools (SAP, Synchro, WMS, HEC-RAS, etc.)
  • Design and details for different components, i.e. culverts, beams, columns, trusses, frames, geometric cross-sections, intersections, traffic signaling, etc.)
  • Development of a work breakdown structure (WBS), CPM network and schedule (Microsoft Project)
  • Detailed estimate (labor, equipment, material, overhead, contingency, profit)
  • Selection of construction methods

Industry involvement

Industry involvement is an essential component of the Capstone Design Project and In fact, this program is in response to the industry demand for graduates who are well trained in engineering fundamentals, as well as professional skills, including leadership, teamwork, and project management, to effectively compete in today's market place.

Each project has an industry project sponsor and a faculty advisor, who jointly provide guidance and support to the student team. 

Project sponsor benefits

Benefits for the industry project sponsors include:

  • Fresh ideas and solutions to real problems
  • Low-cost, low-risk investigation of “back-burner” ideas
  • Identifying talent for employment
  • Corporate exposure on campus
  • Project management experience for junior staff engineers
  • Contributing to engineering education at Western Michigan University
  • Experience of interacting with bright, energetic, creative young minds
  • Networking with other companies who are also sponsoring projects
  • Working with Western Michigan University faculty

Sponsor expectations

A successful Capstone Design Project requires the sponsor to be actively involved by assigning a motivated individual to interact with the student team throughout the duration of the project, which extends over two semesters, either Fall to Spring or Spring to Fall.  After submitting the project information, the senior design coordinator will review the project information and contact the sponsor confirming receipt and to ask for any additional details.  Students select projects in September for completion the following April and in January for completion in December of the same year. 

Once a project is selected by a student team, students will meet with the sponsor and prepare a project proposal during the first course of the senior design sequence.  Students will routinely meet with the sponsor during the second course during which students complete the analysis and design work.  The senior design capstone experience concludes with a formal public presentation and written design report.