This paper is a case study of a senior level project on cogeneration for the Tufts University Medford, MA campus. Eight students were involved — six in the BSME program and two in the BSEnvE program. Through brainstorming and collaborative planning, students developed a “Proposal Document” which defined the study objectives, milestone schedules and deliverables. The student team was then divided into technical and project functional groups. Electronic communication was utilized but “face-to-face” meetings were crucial for maintaining progress. The student team evaluated whole campus and part-campus possibilities taking into account thermal and electrical demand profiles and local infrastructure. The outcome design featured a hybrid conventional combustion/molten carbonate fuel cell system to supply all electrical and partial thermal demands for a complex of buildings housing classrooms, gymnasium facilities and a new field house. Engineering specifications were developed and civil engineering and siting constraints were analyzed. Technology selection was driven not only by engineering constraints but also by student interest in exploring emerging technologies (fuel cells). The team presented written and oral reports to student peers, faculty, university personnel and outside experts.
The paper provides an analysis of outcomes, assessments and satisfaction level. High course satisfaction and above average workloads were reported. The paper concludes with an elucidation of lessons learned including project execution, team makeup and background, the proper focus of design project courses, and the synthesis and integration of knowledge. Even in this small, relatively homogeneous mix of students, attention to bridging interdisciplinary gaps was required. Experience from this and similar courses indicate that the goal of capstone “synthesizing” experiences is flawed if the tendency towards “disciplinarity” in undergraduate education continues.