University of Colorado at Boulder
AerospAce engineering sciences
cApstone senior Design progrAm
CU aerospace engineering seniors assemble their MaCH-SR1 hybrid rocket at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon
facility, in preparation for static test. The achieved rocket thrust was 5,000 pounds.
reAl-worlD projects, reAl-worlD eDucAtion
The University of Colorado at Boulder’s Aerospace Engineering Sciences Capstone Senior Design Program provides an
innovative educational opportunity for students to undertake a real-world project that benefits an industry customer.
During their senior year, all undergraduate aerospace engineering students must enroll in the department’s two-
semester, 4+4-credit senior projects course to complete their degree. Working in teams to complete a customer-
sponsored project approved by the department, students synthesize and apply fundamentals of science,
mathematics, and engineering as they simulate the activities of a small, entrepreneurial company.
Each project must include mechanical, electrical, and software elements, so student teams are exposed to a
variety of technical challenges in addition to learning project management and leadership skills. The department
offers complementary weekly seminars and workshops on select topics to teach students procedures of running a
design project from a requirement to a product.
The unique structure of the Capstone Senior Design course allows students to learn from the expertise of industry
professionals and engineering faculty while tackling a variety of technical challenges. Each team is self-directed,
has two assigned faculty advisors, and can call on resources including the program’s Project Advisory Board (PAB),
composed of nine faculty and two technical staff.
how it worKs
Each team of 7-10 students selects its
own leadership and specialty leads.
Teams are responsible for their own time
and personnel management, including
staying within an allocated budget.
Teams report on a weekly basis to their
two faculty advisors. Up to three times
each semester teams present to the
Project Advisory Board.
Typical Senior Projects Team Structure
A full-time machinist and full-time
electronics technician are available to Self-directed teams operate like small entrepreneurial businesses
give students design and manufacturing
guidance in the department shops.
During the first semester, teams focus on Student Team’s
the synthesis of technical knowledge, the
systems engineering design process, and Project Systems
During the second semester, teams focus CFO Manufacturing Safety
on the fabrication, integration, testing,
verification and validation of the designs Common Subsystems:
produced in the first semester Electrical
Subsystem 1 Subsystem 2 Subsystem 3 Subsystem 4
Lead Engineer Lead Engineer Lead Engineer Lead Engineer
Group Name Customer Project Project Specifications/Goal
ARCTIC University Arctic Region Climate The goal is to develop a payload that provides arctic
of Alaska Tracking and Instrumentation climate data measurements at otherwise inaccessible
Cargo earth-fixed locations. The payload will be constructed for
an InSitu Insight A-20 UAV.
ReMuS Jet Re-deployable Multi-rover The goal of this project is to provide a proof-of-concept
Propulsion System for an interacting multi-robot system. Two child robots
Laboratory will detach from the mother, perform tasks and reattach
to the mother.
VALASA- NOAA Vertical Ascent and Landing Design and build modifications that will outfit an
RAPTOR Aircraft for the Study of existing remote controlled UAV with VTOL and hovering
Atmospherics in recording capabilities and carry a NOAA designed probe.
Acoustic Propagation of
Terrestrial and Oceanic
SHARC Sierra Stable Handling Aerial Radio- Develop a low-cost, easy to operate, and reliable aerial
Nevada controlled Cargo-testbed vehicle for testing of sensor payloads
The learning goals for the senior design projects are tailored to
practices in industry. Students learn how to follow the standard
milestones in a design process:
Customer Project Requirements Document detailing project
Project Definition Document (PDD) Students analyze top
level project requirements, top level system requirements,
the potential risks of the design effort, and analyze their
skills and personalities (Myers-Briggs test) and form a team
organization. This is a written document.
Conceptual Design Document (CDD) Students present
three conceptual designs that could satisfy the customer
requirements and define success for the project. This is a
Preliminary Design Review (PDR) Students present a
“Senior design gave me the
preliminary design with “back-of-the-envelope” calculations
(undergraduate coursework). This is an oral presentation by opportunity to lead my peers
a subset of the students. All students are required to present
through two arduous semesters
once during each semester.
culminating in the static fire of
Critical Design Review (CDR) The selected final design with
a 5,000-pound thrust hybrid
full analysis has to be presented here. Solidworks designs
rocket engine. The lessons
and prototyping have to prove feasibility. Test plans have to
I learned about team work
be ready and test facilities must be confirmed for availability.
Manufacturing plans and parts lists must be presented. have contributed greatly to my
Successful CDR is required to get permission for starting
success in industry.”
Fall Final Report Full documentation of the work throughout —Derek Lerner, 2004 graduate
the fall semester is required, including the mechanical,
Lead Systems Engineer
electronic and software portions.
Orbital Sciences Corp.
Two Interim Reviews at the start of the spring semester
inform the PAB about the progress of manufacturing,
integration and testing, including discussion of emerging
AIAA Student Paper Each team writes a paper on their
project according to AIAA guidelines for the Student
Conferences. The paper is graded by advisers; submission is
Spring Project Review This is the final oral presentation to
the PAB which must include a discussion of achieved and
intended goals and objectives through testing results.
Spring Final Report This is the complete report for the two-
semester project which includes all data packages developed
during the course. Students validate their achievements.
ITLL Design Expo Students are required to participate in the
ITLL Expo and be capable of explaining their technical work
to the general public, including primary and high school
AIAA Region V Conference Student Paper Awards:
2008: First Place, Team Division (KRAKEN team)
2008: Second Place, Team Division (MARVLIS team)
2007: First Place, Team Division (SOARS team)
2007: Best Student Paper, JANNAF Conference (MaCH-SR1)
2002: First Place, Undergrad Division (Otto Krauss/MaCH-SR1 )
The KRAKEN senior project team won best new entry at the
2008 AUVSI underwater autonomous vehicle competition at
Point Loma Naval Base. KRAKEN, pictured below, placed 8th
in static judging and 18th overall out of 25. Most new teams
do not usually navigate any of the obstacles, so this is an
excellent first year showing. KRAKEN also claimed awards at
regional and international student paper conferences.
“The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) sponsored
a senior design project as a proof of concept.
The project is to design a mother rover with
deployable children. The project has been
extremely successful for both the students and
JPL. It has provided the students with a real-
world task and JPL with research data. The
program itself is well run and well executed. JPL
has been so pleased with the project that we are
looking into sponsoring another one.“
— Barbara Streiffert
Senior System and Software System Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
sponsor A Each team spends on average 3,600 man-hours on the project over 28
project school weeks.
Sponsors have the opportunity to interact with and mentor potential
Interested parties should
contact the Course Sponsors can pay a fee to retain Intellectual Property developed in the
Coordinator (see back cover project, if they wish.
for information) to receive
a copy of the Customer
Requirements Document and
additional information on
Sponsors should understand that the primary goal is education, so
becoming a sponsor.
projects that are in the customer’s critical path cannot be accepted. All
Sponsors can select from
projects are conducted on a best-effort basis.
two alternative avenues:
Sponsors complete a Project Proposal form (PP) and a Customer
Minimum Support or
Project Requirements Document (CPRD) in negotiation with the course
Sponsors review and negotiate the Project Definition Document (PDD)
Schedule includes transfer of
and Conceptual Design Document (CDD) with the students.
ownership of project-created
Intellectual Property rights to Sponsors provide the project team with advice and feedback on
the customer submitted documents and presentations.
Customer pays an Sponsors participate in private project reviews (PDR, CDR, IR1, IR2, FPR).
infrastructure fee and
“Forming that relationship between the school and industry
receives an electronic copy of
each project milestone
was of great benefit to all parties. Not only did the students
Additional conditional get a great learning experience to help prepare them for
deliverables will be based
industry, but SNC was able to obtain valuable research. “
on an agreement between
the customer and the AES
Michael Bertman, Senior Aerospace Engineer
Sierra Nevada Corporation
ABout the DepArtment of
AerospAce engineering sciences
The University of Colorado at Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences currently has approximately
400 undergraduates and 160 graduate students. Its 27 faculty work in areas including systems, mechanical, electrical,
and software engineering, as well as aerospace sciences — specifically in aerospace technologies, such as aircraft,
spacecraft, structural engineering, guidance and control, robotics, GPS, astrodynamics, and space life sciences.
The department sponsors or co-sponsors four interdisciplinary research centers and receives about $10 million
annually in sponsored research awards. Leading research centers are in astrodynamics, structures, bioastronautics, and
unmanned aerial vehicles.
Advancing Aerospace Technology
At left, Solar Unmanned Aerial Vehicle makes a
test flight over the Rockies.
Below, MaCH-SR1 hybrid rocket testing at
Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon Facility.
Course Coordinator Prof. Jean Koster 303-492-6945 Jean.email@example.com
Student Adviser Claire Yang 303-492-2940 Claire.Yang@colorado.edu
Department Chair Prof. Jeffrey Forbes 303-492-4359 Forbes@Colorado.edu
University of Colorado at Boulder
Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0429
Visit the following web sites for more information:
(student networking site)