Wednesday, December 8, 2021

“I want our students and faculty to create and return to the state of Iowa tenable benefits by completing useful projects that will eventually inform policy and funding decisions about infrastructure, assist with final engineering designs, and for some the construction of a community improvement.” 

Associate Professor Paul Hanley, College of Engineering

Professor Paul Hanley structures his Project Design and Management capstone course around community-based projects to emulate the experiences students will have as engineering graduates and to give back to the state of Iowa. Last year, 48 graduate students worked on 16 different projects in 16 rural Iowa communities through this course. Professor Paul Hanley has partnered with the Office of Community Engagement on real-world projects for the last three years. 

Hanley values having multiple projects to work on that reinforce and refine his engineering design skills, keep him current with appropriate rules, regulations, standards, and guidelines, and challenge him through his work with project partners. The value to the students is exceptional. 

"This is the only course that brings together all their course work and internship experiences and focuses it on one semester-long applied project," says Hanley. "They learn people skills by working one-on-one with clients outside the university, they increase their presentation skills by translating technical designs into useful products for non-engineers in their client’s community, and they gain confidence in their science and engineering skills."

This is the  first experience working with clients, who are not engineers, for the students. But the clients have something specific that needs to be addressed.

"It is the students’ responsibility to complete site visits with the client, scope the project, generate conceptual alternatives, reach an agreement with the client on preferred alternative, complete the engineering and related analysis and preliminary designs, and present the results to the faculty and community client," Hanley explains.

Throughout the semester, students produce a written proposal report and presentation, a written final design report, engineer design drawings and details, 3D models or renderings, presentation slides for faculty, presentation slides for their client, and a summary poster. Each semester, a new group of students work on multiple projects with partners in communities throughout Iowa.

Watch the video below to learn more about Hanley's class and how he successfully incorporates community-engaged learning into the capstone course.