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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Establishment of Senior Design Legacy Projects

Rafael Guerrero

As engineering students at SCU generally have only nine months to design, fabricate, and test a chosen senior design project, another key aspect of fairness to consider is that you may not be able to produce a fully safe, robust, and effective prototype at the end of the senior design project-- and that this is okay! For the most part, your senior design project is meant to give you experience in collaborative design work and to develop crucial engineering analysis and communication skills. In the scope of the senior design project, fairness demands that you and your team are working equitably to ensure your best effort is made to complete the senior design project and rightfully earn your undergraduate degree. But what if your design project, like mine, was intended to deliver a prototype to a customer at the end of the senior design process? Is it fair to consider the project “done” when the community still will not have their technological needs met when you graduate? For teams that did not effectively produce a safe, robust, and effective prototype of their design ready for deployment and implementation, one way that the senior design project may live on until its completion is through the establishment of a senior design “legacy project”.

What is a “legacy project”, and how does a senior design project become one?

At Santa Clara University, there are a handful of projects that have been carried on from past senior design teams that are known as legacy projects. These projects were continued by the teams’ previous advisers with the hopes that their plans for future iteration could be carried on by future Bronco engineering design teams. Moreover, legacy projects tend to be projects deemed worthy by the SCU School of Engineering to continue past their original design teams because of the potential they have to make a difference in their target communities.

It may very well be that your senior design project has the potential to be carried on by the next graduating class at Santa Clara University, especially if your project has the potential to provide a deeply creative and effective solution to a pronounced issue in your target community and beyond. With regard to fairness, continuing your project beyond the efforts of your design team ensures that the customer will not be forgotten-- and that through the work of another design team, they will be able to receive the product they deserve. Establishment of a senior design legacy project allows for the work you and your design team have completed to carry on beyond your graduation.

To establish a legacy project within the School of Engineering, there are a few criteria to consider:

  1. You and your team have done a considerable amount of work in progressing the design.
  2. You and your team have taken the initiative a reasonable amount of time before graduation to begin the process of establishing the legacy project.
  3. Your advisor has expressed interest in continuing the project.
  4. The department or departments involved in the School of Engineering are willing to continue the project.
  5. There is a considerable benefit that can be produced from the design project that merits future continuation.
  6. There is an expressed interest by rising seniors to continue your senior design project.

At the core of the establishment of a legacy project is the idea that continuation of the senior design project will present a great benefit for its intended target community and beyond if it were to be completed. In the case of my senior design project, the Frugal Clay Press for Nicaragua, the establishment of a legacy project was necessary because there was still a very real customer at the end of our project that saw value in having our product. Despite our efforts to prototype a manual clay brick press for our community in Ciudad Darío, Nicaragua, time constraints and prototype errors in our senior design process did not allow us to deploy a prototype. Both the potential for this design to be implemented successfully in Nicaragua and its potential to be implemented in other rural communities worldwide provided ample reason for our project to be continued at Santa Clara University as a legacy project.

Considerations regarding Fairness and Justice in the establishment of a senior design legacy project are:

Presence of a defined customer:

  • If your project has a defined customer or target community and your team is unable to deploy a final product to them, there is a high potential that your project may live on as a legacy project. This is especially true if your customer or target community sees a real need for your project and would like to work with future engineering teams to ensure that the project is completed.

Potential for broader application:

  • The possibility of application of your project on a larger scale can be part of extending fairness and justice to people beyond your target community and customer base. Understanding what goods can be produced by your device and how they contribute to equity beyond the community you wish to serve with your design can present a strong case as to why the design project should continue as a legacy project.

Personal Link

What made my senior design project a great candidate for continuation as a legacy project was the presence of a very real customer and impact of our design solution. For the Frugal Clay Press for Nicaragua design team, we had worked since the beginning of our project with a social entrepreneurship in Ciudad Darío, Nicaragua to design for them a manual clay brick press that could greatly increase the efficiency and sustainability of their clay brick making processes. The value in our design idea was that clay compression would allow the community to spend much less time waiting for bricks to dry and bake bricks much more quickly than before. Moreover, clay compression would allow for them to use less water in mixing their clay, which would greatly reduce the community’s water usage. This value was built even further when I travelled with a fellow teammate to Nicaragua in March 2018, when the two of us were able to collect feedback on our design and conduct some on-site testing that proved the effectiveness of clay compression for their processes.

Mr. Allan Baez-Morales of the Frugal Innovation Hub, my colleague, and me with the owner of the social entrepreneurship and his family in March, 2018.

Figure 3: Mr. Allan Baez-Morales of the Frugal Innovation Hub, my colleague, and me with the owner of the social entrepreneurship and his family in March, 2018.

Due to civil unrest in Nicaragua beginning in March of 2018 and our team’s inability to successfully complete a robust product, however, it became clear that our team would not be able to deploy our prototype to Nicaragua. This was a great disappointment to our team and our customer, as we had spent an entire year working with the clay making community to complete a product that could dramatically improve their brick making processes and, in doing so, expand their capacity to provide employment to members of the community. Because of the limited time remaining in the academic year to iterate upon our design, my team and I worked to establish the Frugal Clay Press for Nicaragua legacy project. This was to ensure that beyond our graduation, the social entrepreneurship would be treated fairly by Santa Clara University and that future design teams could eventually provide them with a safer and more effective version of our manual clay brick press design.

Jun 29, 2018