Information for ME 450 Students

Table of Contents

Answers to Common ME 450 Questions

Questions about Course Structure and Goals

What is ME 450?

ME 450 is an intensive, four-credit, senior-level Capstone Design class in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. The key learning outcomes of ME 450 are to:

  1. Develop advanced knowledge and skills in design process and context assessment best practices.

  2. Work with a team and use a structured design process to solve a real, complex, open-ended mechanical engineering design problem.

What happens during the Discussion Section time?

  • Discussion sections consist of 5-6 project teams and a faculty instructor. Your official discussion section and instructor will be determined based on the project to which you are assigned in the second week of the semester.

  • Faculty instructors use the entire Discussion time period for instruction and meeting with project teams.

  • Section scheduling and expectations will vary by instructor and may also change throughout the semester. Most instructors use a combination of full section meetings, individual team meetings, and office hours. Activities may include full-section instruction or discussion, work-in-process project presentations, peer co-working, instructor coaching of individual teams, and/or office hours. Design review presentations are also scheduled within discussion sections.

Which Discussion Section (DIS) should I choose during registration?

  • Enroll in any section initially.

  • Project preferences are usually due by the second class section. Your project will be assigned before the third class session, and this project assignment will include assignment to an instructor and section.

  • If a different section is associated with your project than the one you initially enrolled in:

    • Attend the correct section for the third class session.

    • Keep your eye out for an email letting you know you have been issued an override to swap sections.

    • Please make sure to use the override to swap sections by the drop/add deadline, which is usually in the third week of classes.

What happens during the Learning Block time?

  • Lecture content is delivered via on-demand Canvas Learning Blocks.

  • Two hours a week, on average, are set aside for Learning Block completion, but most students need more than two hours a week earlier in the semester to complete the Learning Blocks. The Learning Block assignments may be completed flexibly at other times.

  • Deadlines for Learning Block assignments are listed in the course schedule. The Learning Blocks can be submitted at your own pace before the deadlines.

  • GSI office hours and additional live workshops may also be scheduled during the time set aside for completing Learning Blocks.

Are the Learning Blocks optional? Can we complete the Learning Blocks at any time?

  • Learning Block assignments are individual assignments with deadlines. They are graded and comprise 20% of each student's final grade.

  • Skipping the Learning Blocks in this course is equivalent to not attending lectures and not reading the text book for a course.

  • Each Learning Block takes about two hours to complete, on average. Students are encouraged to use the two hours a week of Learning Block time provided to ensure they complete the Learning Block assignments on schedule. Students have the flexibility to use that time for group work instead, though, making up the Learning Block time when convenient.

  • The Learning Blocks are designed to deliver content "just in time" - providing you with the information you need when you need it - during each phase of prototype design, testing, and validation. It is best not to rush through them or do them all at once.

  • Student feedback has reflected that peers find it frustrating when teammates have not completed the Learning Blocks on time, or just rushed through them, because it directly impacts their ability to meaningfully contribute to team reports and presentations.

  • Key ME 450 course resources may not be available to you unless or until you complete the Learning Blocks. For example, the ME 450 course librarian will not meet with a team to talk about how to search for patents related to their projects (an essential first step in any project) unless they have completed the Library Learning Block.

Will ME 450 students have access to the ME labs in Fall 2022 and Winter 2023?

  • Yes. For the 2022-2023 academic year, we expect students will have reasonable access to ME undergraduate lab facilities for ME 450 work.

  • Students must have completed the required machine shop training and mill and lathe exercises to use the machine shop, which typically need to be complete by the first week of the semester.

  • Additional training may be required for access to the X50 Assembly Room and Mechatronics Lab.

May I schedule another course or activity that has a regular conflict with ME 450 class time?

  • No. You will not be in class the entire scheduled time period every Tuesday and Thursday, but we expect that all ME 450 students will be available for ME 450 activities during the full scheduled time. Your teammates also depend on you being available.

  • Contact your section instructor in advance if you will be absent due to a job interview or student competition.

  • Student athletes: please contact the course coordinator directly to discuss accommodations.

Is it okay to miss the first day of class?

  • Contact (which reaches the faculty lead) if you will not be able to attend the first class. The first class may be in-person, asynchronous (pre-recorded), or a synchronous Zoom session (check Canvas). The first class is vital to attend and review at least once later in the semester.

  • Pay close attention to the deadline for submitting your preferences for ME 450 projects. In order to receive equal consideration for your project preferences, you will need to submit your preferences on time, otherwise, you will be assigned to a project based on space available.

Will class sessions be recorded for students who need to miss class?

  • No, discussion sections are used flexibly by section instructors for full section meetings, formal design reviews, and informal presentations, peer co-working sessions, individual team meetings, and office hours. Your participation in class sessions is a major determinant of your grade.

  • ME 450 is a highly interactive and collaborative course that requires full student participation during scheduled activities.

  • Contact your instructor if you need accommodations for occasional absences due to illness, job interviews, or based on other considerations.

Questions about Projects and the Project Selection Process

How are ME 450 projects created? Can my peers and I create our own student-led project?

  • Capstone projects may come from industry, U-M faculty/labs, community organizations, or students. All ME 450 projects - whether internally or externally sponsored - are finalized in advance of the semester.

  • Students who wish to propose their own project must submit a project idea by August 1 for the fall semester, and by December 1 for the winter semester. Students will be informed in writing if their student-initiated project proposal was approved by the instructional team before the beginning of the semester.

    • If you include your peers' names in a project proposal that is selected, a team of up to five students may work together.

    • This means that if you submit a proposal with one to four students listed, the ME 450 instruction team will match additional students with your project to create a full team size of four or five students, at their discretion.

    • The project may be student-led, and may also include a mentor of your choice, such as a faculty or staff member who works closely with a student club.

Can I choose my team members? How big can a team be?

  • Project teams consist of four to five students. The final size of a project team is at the discretion of the instructional team. For example, the instructional team may assign a fifth student to a pre-formed team of four students.

  • Student teams whose student-led project was selected may request to work together provided they have a team size of at least three students.

    • If the preformed team size is three to four students, they may be assigned additional students to reach a full team size of four to five students, based on the discretion of the instructional team.

    • Students are matched based on preference and skills. Students matched with a pre-formed team are expected to participate fully in the project.

  • Even if students did not have a student-led project selected for the semester, a group of three or more students may request to work together.

    • Note that placing priority on working with specific team members may mean assignment to a lower-ranked project based on the way project assignments occur (it becomes an over-constrained problem).

  • In order to be assigned to the same project, all members of a preformed team must list each other on their Project Preference Form.

    • For example, if one of four students forgets to list the other three students on their Project Preference Form, the three who listed each other may be assigned to the same project, but the fourth person who didn't list the others may be assigned to another project.

    • This applies even to teams who listed all team members on their Project Idea Proposal, so please remember to list all of your team mates on the Project Preference Form to indicate your preferences have not changed.

How are students assigned to projects?

  • Typically, on the first day of ME 450, students will review the full set of project descriptions and submit their ranked preferences by a specific date and time. Make sure to submit your preferences by the deadline to receive full consideration based on your preferences.

  • The instructional team will assign students to projects based on student preferences, required skill sets, and team formation best practices.

  • If a student or student team submitted a project proposal in advance (by July 1 for the fall, and by November 1 for the winter) that was selected for the semester, that student or student team will be able to work on their project. Other students may be assigned to the project to complete the team.

  • We encourage students to communicate any concerns about their project or team to the instructional team as early in the semester as possible.

When to Contact Instructors, GSIs, and Course Staff

When should I contact my section instructor?

Reach out to your section instructor about:

  • Concerns about your project or project team. Please note that if you have any concerns about your team or project, we ask that you let a GSI and/or your section instructor know immediately.

  • Concerns about your project sponsor (e.g., you are having trouble finding a meeting time).

  • Accommodations needed.

  • Expected absences.

  • Your section's schedule (which may differ from other sections).

  • Design Review Presentations and Reports, which your instructor will be grading.

  • Your section's method of turning in Design Reviews, Peer Feedback, and Peer Evaluations (which may also differ from other sections).

  • Troubleshooting potential obstacles to applying Learning Block content to project work and design reviews.

  • When you would like a referral to an outside consultant to discuss a technical question related to your project. Your instructor may refer you to:

When should I contact one of the GSIs?

Each semester, there is a full-time Course Coordinator and at least one faculty member who is a Course Lead. Anytime you email, this team and the GSIs will receive your email.

  • If you feel more comfortable speaking with a GSI individually first about any of the topics listed in the previous answer, feel free to - they are able to address most questions and concerns. The main exception is that they do not grade Design Review Presentations or Reports.

  • Note that GSIs are available during their office hours, as well as by appointment. They can usually meet with your team anywhere in or near the GG Brown building.

  • ME 450 GSIs are selected based on their skills to help students with hands-on projects in the Machine Shop or other lab spaces, as well as with computer simulations and Learning Blocks, so feel free to consult with them about your project.

  • Most GSIs successfully completed ME 450 recently. Part of their role is to offer general advice and assistance with your project, presentations, posters, reports, as well as with logistical aspects of the course like materials purchasing.

  • GSIs will be grading all Learning Blocks, so they are the best contacts to discuss anything related to the Learning Blocks.

  • GSIs manage most aspects of the Design Expo, so are the best contacts for Expo-related questions - such as about poster size, format, and poster printing.

  • Please note that if you have any concerns about your team or project, we ask that you let a GSI and/or your section instructor know immediately.

Is it okay if I reach out to other instructors about my project?

Instructors for other sections of ME 450 this semester are available as a resource to you.

  • For example, if you run into an obstacle during prototyping, and believe another instructor's expertise might help you identify an optimal solution, feel free to reach out to them directly.

  • We have listed each instructor's skills most applicable to ME 450 below their bio, along with their contact information, to help students figure out who to reach out to with technical questions.

  • Feel free to ask your section instructor or a GSI to introduce you to another instructor for this semester. Instructors for other semesters may not be available (e.g., may be on sabbatical).

When should I reach out to the Course Coordinator?

Each semester, there is a full-time Course Coordinator and at least one faculty member who is a Course Lead. Anytime you email, this team and the GSIs will receive your email.

You may also call the Course Coordinator directly at (734) 615-8518 (note this line does not receive texts), or book an appointment using the following link:

Feel free to reach out to the Course Coordinator if:

  • Your section instructor and/or GSI is not sure how to address a question or resolve a concern - such as about (but not limited to) IP agreements or materials purchasing.

  • You would like to share content for social media, or have questions related to social media.

  • To share feedback or suggestions for the course, this website, the Canvas site, the ME 450 calendar, or ME 450 social media.

  • If you need help scheduling a space to meet virtually or in-person with your sponsor.

  • To get ideas about where else your group could meet to work on your prototype.

  • To introduce us to potential project mentors, or to scope out project ideas for future ME 450 Projects. You may also submit a project idea using our Project Idea Form.

When should I reach out to the Course Lead?

Each semester, there is a full-time Course Coordinator and at least one faculty member who is a Course Lead. Anytime you email, this team and the GSIs will receive your email.

Feel free to reach out to the Course Lead if:

  • Your section instructor and/or GSI is not sure how to address a question or resolve a concern.

  • To share feedback or suggestions for the course, this website, or the Canvas site.

  • To share industry contacts or scope out project ideas for future ME 450 Projects. You may also submit a project idea using our Project Idea Form.