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Covid-19 Challenges Spark Changes in Capstone Projects

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, BYU Engineering Capstone teams had to make necessary changes to accommodate working remotely from home. Three students shared their experiences of how they have adapted their process to successfully complete their projects.

Thalia Hull, an Electrical Engineering major, worked on a Capstone project with the NKFG Corporation to create a robot vacuum attachment with the capability of sterilizing floors as it cleaned them.

Their project came to a close when campus shut down and access to needed parts became limited. Hull said the hardest part was trying to determine what she could do to keep the project moving forward.

“A lot of my work specifically was very physical: soldering, checking connections, writing and checking code. I wrote a bit of code that was supposed to run everything but there was no way to test it because I finished it after the building closed down,” Hull said.

Despite the setbacks, their team found ways to continue preparing the project for a new crop of students. “In light of everything that has gone on, almost all of the work we have done has been in terms of documentation to make it easier for NKFG Corporation or a future team to jump off of our work,” Hull said. “We hope that everything is put together enough for them!”

On the other hand, some students found their projects not to be affected as much. Electrical Engineering major Cameron Smith worked on a Capstone project to stabilize the temperature of a 2 km optical fiber. He worked on the control system design to balance the spool’s temperature and keep the fibers from becoming disfigured.

His team faced the challenge of assembling an optoelectronic oscillator but ran out of time to test their designs. However, they were nearing the end stages of their project when the virus hit, allowing them to continue on relatively smoothly from home.

“Our project had most of the essential hardware finished, so we were able to spend the last month or so working on documentation. Luckily for us the coronavirus didn't affect us too drastically,” Smith said.

Kyle Meaker, a Mechanical Engineering major, also found his Jet Engine Turbine Coupling Capstone project was able to continue somewhat normally.

“My reaction when I heard about the coronavirus and the changes it would make to schooling was amazement. Never had I imagined that my last semester at BYU would end like it has, but it has been a humbling reminder that the future can be unpredictable,” Meaker said. His team was able to finish their testing before campus locked down, enabling them to successfully test and validate two designs.

They continued making progress as a Capstone team by meeting online to discuss how to move forward with the documentation of their processes. Meaker said this has also been one of the biggest challenges as they have not been able to connect face-to-face as frequently.

“My experience in Capstone, even with the difficulties of coronavirus, has been incredibly rewarding as well as instructive. I feel it was the perfect way to wrap up my educational experience in a way that has helped me prepare to enter the work force,” Meaker said.