The two-semester, capstone senior design courses of the Mechanical Engineering Department of Saint Martin’s University prepare students for the workforce by having them participate as teams to solve open-ended, real-world design problems. Students design, manufacture and assemble their project. The students use knowledge from all previous engineering courses as well as their own creative improvisations. Team work is emphasized. Problem recognition, constraints, alternative solutions and their evaluation, consideration of economic and environmental concerns, manufacturing, and scheduling are stressed. The design project further hones the oral and written communication skills of the team.

A 2011 senior team designed and constructed a unique, safe, miniature, Rankine vapor power cycle experimental apparatus. The apparatus is currently used to support instruction in four engineering courses: Heat Transfer, Thermodynamics II, Thermal Design of Heat Exchangers, and Energy Systems. A comprehensive literature and market search was performed to choose the working fluid. The cycle was tested up to a high pressure of 260 kPa and the highest temperature reached was 142 °C. The lowest pressure and temperature reached were approximately 101 kPa and 20°C, respectively. The apparatus is equipped with temperature, pressure, and flow rate instrumentation, connected to a real time data acquisition system. Technical details are given in the article.

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