The senior capstone provides Biological Engineering students with hands-on, design experience while working with a project sponsor.

In their senior year, Biological Engineering students complete a culminating design experience in a two-class sequence (B E 460 and B E 466W) during the fall and spring semesters. Senior design projects can be sponsored by faculty, industry, or other organizations as shown on the list of previous projects. This gives sponsors a great opportunity to have real problems addressed by bright and enthusiastic students, and it gives the students a great opportunity to learn more about how real-world challenges are solved.

Timeline for Fall 2019-Spring 2020 Projects

May-June 2019

Complete project submission form for:

Projects should require students to apply their engineering skills to solve a design challenge. Project success depends on a clear objective and sponsor engagement. Student teams can be formed from one or more of the following specialization areas:

  • Agricultural Engineering (power and machinery systems, off-road equipment, design of wood structures and composite materials)
  • Food and Biological Processing Engineering (process design and production associated with food, vitamin and food supplements, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, and bioproducts)
  • Natural Resource Engineering (sustainable land development, water quality, non-point source pollution)

June-July 2019

As project list is finalized, ABE Capstone Design Team contacts sponsors. Project fees are due. For external, for-profit sponsors, project funds are processed as gifts and are non-refundable.

August 2019

Student teams are matched to projects.

September-December 2019

Student teams complete project proposal. Sponsors are expected to facilitate site visits (as needed), communicate with teams on a weekly basis, and provide feedback on project proposals. Student teams will provide weekly reports to sponsors. Project proposal will include an estimate of expected expenses. In the event that project scope exceeds $1000 budget provided by project support costs, sponsor and student team can discuss reduction in scope or request of additional funds.

January-March 2020

Students work on project and submit weekly progress reports to sponsor. Weekly interaction between student teams and sponsors is expected.

March 2020

Sponsors invited to attend poster session to see team progress on projects. Coincides with Industrial and Professional Advisory Council (IPAC) visit.

April-May 2020

Students complete project, continuing weekly communication with sponsor. Sponsors are expected to provide feedback on project report. Final deliverables to sponsors include the following: project report, results, data, analysis, and hardware and/or software (if applicable).

Project Budget

The budget model for a project sponsored by a for-profit, external organization is summarized below. Project budget is paid as a gift to Penn State and can not be refunded.


  • Project overhead fee: $500 (for external, for-profit organization)
  • Project support costs: $1000
  • Administrative fee (NDA): $250 (nondisclosure agreement, if applicable)
  • Administrative fee (IPA): $250 (intellectual property agreement, if applicable)

Administrative fees for nondisclosure and intellectual property agreements are only assessed if those agreements are required by the sponsor. Project support costs will be put toward software use, facility use, travel (e.g. site visit), and consumables.

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

Sponsors may require students to sign a nondisclosure agreement to protect unpatented information or to avoid public disclosure of information or an invention. The university Nondisclosure Agreement requires students to protect confidential information provided by the sponsor. There is a $250 administrative fee associated with the execution of this agreement.

Undergraduate students own all intellectual property they develop as a part of their coursework according to Penn State policy IPG02. They can, however, sign over their intellectual property if requested. The university Intellectual Property Agreement will provide the sponsor with ownership of all intellectual property that is developed during the course of the project. There is a $250 administration fee associated with the execution of this agreement. The execution of a Nondisclosure Agreement is also required.

Due to the complexity of processing these agreements, no negotiation of the terms of these agreements is possible.