Capstone Design
Past Projects

Below you will find examples of past ME 450 Capstone Design projects, including several project descriptions from different sectors. Students use these project descriptions to select between around thirty projects each fall and winter (sixty projects each academic year).

You can share your idea for a project using our Project Ideas Form, which only takes around ten minutes to fill out once you have your project description ready. Project descriptions are typically a paragraph or two, and describe what students will be doing for the project, as shown in the examples below.

The Best Senior Design Project Descriptions:

  • Feature substantial creative design content, enabling students to ideate across a broad spectrum of possible design solutions.

  • Are sufficiently well-defined and scoped to permit completion in one semester.

  • Require various methods of engineering analysis as a central strategy to conceptualize, verify, and validate design solutions.

  • Projects may include students developing a virtual or physical prototype of their design.

Project Idea Description Examples

Projects with Industry

A Practical Schlieren Imaging Setup for Injector Development

Description: Schlieren is a technique whereby a single point source of light is split by a razor and then used to create an image of the density of a gas medium. With schlieren imaging, it becomes possible to “see” gases in air, or observe air at different densities as it is heated, expanded, or accelerated. The goal of this project is to design, build and test a compact Schlieren imaging system for use as a test asset to analyze exit velocities, spray patterns, and leakage in injection systems.

Intellectual Property: Students signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Metalworking Fluid Sentinel

Description: Metalworking fluids provide cooling, lubrication, and chip evacuation to metal cutting processes. Regardless of their type, metalworking fluids generally work better at higher pressures and as close to the cutting process as possible. When the metalworking fluids are delivered through external nozzles, instead of through the tool or tool holder, a problem is immediately created since placing the nozzle too close to the cutting zone will interfere with machine movement and tool changes. While metalworking fluid nozzles could be integrated to the machine tool – and programmed separately – the market has rejected this solution. The market would prefer a nozzle that could adjust itself without programming or interaction.

This ME 450 W22 project will create a design solution that will use cues from the machining environment to position a cutting fluid nozzle near to the cutting zone just prior to cutting, and quickly remove it prior to a tool change. This will most likely require a mechatronic solution with brains, a sensor-enabled sentinel, to stand and keep watch over the machine tool and decide on its own when the cutting fluid nozzle should be positioned.

Intellectual Property: Students assigned intellectual property rights to the industry partner.

Projects with Faculty

Motorized dissection microscope stage

Description: We explore the locomotion of tiny nematode worms that are a powerful animal model for science focused on the neurobiology of learning and the biology of aging. As part of our biological studies, we need to track these tiny organisms as they move within a small planar region while simultaneously viewing them through a low resolution (dissection) microscope. In particular, we seek a motorized and automated x,y microscope stage that will track single organisms as they move while keeping them within, in the microscope’s field of view. Such automated stages are commercially available for high-resolution (small field of view) microscopes; however, they are costly and hard to customize for our research needs. We, therefore, need a low-cost stage to fit a lower resolution (large field of view) dissection microscope. The microscope in question is already coupled to a camera that has an imaging and tracking system. Thus, the main design challenge is to use this imaging/tracking system as control input to a new motorized x,y stage that automatically positions itself to keep an organism within the field of view. The needed equipment is located in G.G. Brown.

Intellectual Property: Not applicable.

Minimally invasive cataract emulsification device

Description: Approximately 4 million cataract surgeries are performed in the US and 28 million worldwide. Current surgeries require making one or two incisions in the eye capsule (as large as 5 mm) to accommodate the surgical instruments needed for cutting, emulsification (tissue segmentation) and aspiration of the cataract. It is widely accepted that minimizing the number and size of incisions would have significant implications in reducing eye trauma and post-surgery complications.

This project aims to design a system that can perform a complete emulsification of a cataract inside the capsular bag using a single 1 mm or smaller incision. The opening should be just large enough to allow the introduction of a small cutting device (stirring rod) that will be controlled externally (e.g., magnetic, RF, wires, light). Other aspects of the cataract surgery procedure such as making the incision, aspiration, or lens replacement do not need to be considered as part of this project. A proof of concept can be made in a 10x scale, as long as there is a near-future path for miniaturization.

Intellectual Property: Students assigned intellectual property rights to the University of Michigan.

Projects with Nonprofits and Student Groups

[Nonprofit] Infant Changing Table Safety

Description: Falls are the number one injury from nursery products such as cribs, high chairs, strollers, etc. In 2020, 3,200 children were rushed to emergency rooms from injuries involving changing tables--most of the injuries were the result of falls. Changing tables are designed to make it easier to change diapers and dress babies, but put the baby at a height that can lead to falls. Students should study the product, user interactions, and behavior and develop a prototype that better secures a child on a changing table without making the tasks at hand more difficult. Design changes can include a passive restraint that doesn't require additional actions by a user, or a change in design that makes falls less likely.

Existing Solutions: Most changing surfaces are similar--edges to stop a child from rolling (not always successfully) and sometimes a restraint belt that may or may not be used by caregivers. It is a product ready for innovation for safety.

Intellectual Property: Not applicable.

[Student Group] Design Upright Assembly for Outboard Electric Motors for MR23

Description: For MR23, the team will be moving to outboard electric motors. This will require a complete redesign of the suspension upright, hardpoints, and links. It will be required for the upright to house the motor and gearbox, as well as to provide mounting points for the brake system (caliper and rotor). The project brings multiple challenges, one being that the complex assembly needs to be manufacturable with resources that are available from sponsors or on campus. There are also important goals for the design. One is to keep weight to a minimum while maintaining structural stiffness and strength. The main deliverable will be a manufactured upright with brake-rotor and caliper that will fit the motor and gearbox for next year’s car.

Intellectual Property: Not applicable.

We Can Help!

We are happy to help you scope a capstone design project idea. Our lead instructors review every project description and meet with potential partners, on request, to provide technical feedback.

You are also welcome to contact us directly with any questions you might have about partnering with the ME 450 Capstone Design course.

Three More Example Projects from Different Sectors


JARP Industries asked ME 450 students to develop and improve methods for maneuvering large cylinders

Faculty Startup

Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMS) asked ME 450 students to build an automated crankshaft inspection machine


ME 450 students built a hand-operated paraplegic exercise bicycle for a rehabilitative, therapeutic workout

See our Capstone Design Portfolio for more industry project examples