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.

Coronavirus Impacts on Capstone Projects

It should be noted that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the scope and deliverables of capstone projects may change throughout the duration of the project in consultation with the sponsor. Projects should ideally include the potential for being executed without the need of laboratory or fabrication work. Due to Penn State's current travel guidelines, there will be no in-person visits by students to meet with sponsors or to conduct site assessments (unless the project site is within walking distance of campus). Meetings between sponsors and teams will be conducted virtually.

Timeline for Fall 2020-Spring 2021 Projects

May-July 2020

Complete project submission form for:

Projects should require students to apply their engineering skills to solve a design challenge. Project success depends on sponsor engagement and a clear objective, which should be detailed in the project description in the submission form (see sample project descriptions.) 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)

August 2020

External (industry) sponsors receive a request for payment for project fees. For external, for-profit sponsors, project funds are processed as gifts and are non-refundable. Fees are requested to be paid as soon as possible and definitely by the end of September. During the first week of the fall semester (end of August), student teams are formed and matched to projects.

September-December 2020

Student teams complete design project proposal. Sponsors are expected to meet with student teams (as needed), facilitate site visits (as needed), connect students to resources (as needed), and provide feedback on project proposal. Student teams will provide weekly e-mail updates 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 2021

Students continue work on project and e-mail weekly progress reports to sponsor. Weekly interaction between student teams and sponsors is expected. Establishing a regular meeting schedule is encouraged. For example, the team e-mails a progress report to sponsor every week and meets with sponsor every two weeks. Student teams complete design specification report and submit for sponsor feedback.

March 2021

Student teams present project progress at poster session that coincides with Industrial and Professional Advisory Council (IPAC) visit.

April-May 2021

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.