Sponsored Senior Design Projects

Cal Poly has long been known for its learn-by-doing approach.  The senior project has been a capstone of the undergraduate experience throughout Cal Poly’s history.  That tradition continues through today in the Biomedical Engineering department.

The Biomedical Engineering Program formally began in 2005.  However, the Biomedical Engineering curriculum evolved from its existence as a concentration within the General Engineering Program which had operated for approximately 15 years. The logical transition from a concentration to an accredited major occurred when compelling interest from our industrial partners, increased job opportunities, and student demand combined with the needs of the CSU to develop new multidisciplinary programs to increase growth.

The mission of the Biomedical Engineering Program is to educate our students for careers of service, leadership, and distinction in engineering or other fields by using a participatory, learn by doing, “hands-on” laboratory, project, and design centered approach. The philosophy of the BMED major is to provide an undergraduate degree that is largely a general approach to biomedical engineering, emphasizing hands-on learning experiences and core competencies that can serve a wide variety of industries. 

Professors’ Chris Heylman, Michael Whitt, and Britta Berg-Johansen will lead the senior project course throughout this academic year. If you have an idea or feedback that you would like to discuss please contact them at:

We hope to have your project on-board!

The Senior Design Project is a 2-quarter, team-based experience where students design, build, and test a solution to an externally supplied problem. This format allows students to apply their engineering fundamentals while developing the teamwork and communication skills needed for today’s workplace. Students also gain valuable experience working with industry partners.  

The senior project sequence is offered twice per year: Fall/Winter (Sep-Mar) and Winter/Spring (Jan-Jun) quarters. Student teams are formed in the beginning of the first quarter of each sequence and stay together for the entire project.  The first quarter has the students conceptualizing, performing feasibility studies, and ultimately deciding on a design direction. It culminates in a formal Concept Design Review. During the second quarter, students complete the detailed design, hold a formal Critical Design Review to get the sponsor’s approval to build their prototype.  After manufacturing, the prototype undergoes testing to validate the specifications.  A Final Report including a Design History File is prepared and presented to the class at the end of the course sequence. Additionally, the project and prototype is presented to the university community in a poster session at the College of Engineering Design Exposition. Throughout the project, each student team has a faculty advisor who meets with them on a weekly basis guiding them on their project and serving as a project manager. Students also meet weekly with their industry sponsor “customer” to update them on their progress.

This enriching experience is a unique opportunity to get involved with Cal Poly engineering seniors and to understand firsthand what makes Cal Poly students stand out among other applicants when it comes to their employment.

If you are curious about what constitutes a good project, or what results you can expect to see if you sponsor a project, take a look at the final reports from past Senior Projects online at the Cal Poly Digital Commons website.  (Note: if you prefer for your project to remain confidential for three years after the project that can be arranged).

Another good way to see if your project would be a good fit is to look at our course learning outcomes:

  • An ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
  • An ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors.
  • An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
  • An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
  • An ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objective.
  • An ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
  • An ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
  • Applying principles of engineering, biology, human physiology, chemistry, calculus-based physics, mathematics (through differential equations) and statistics.
  • Solving bio/biomedical engineering problems, including those associated with the interaction between living and non-living systems.
  • Analyzing, modeling, designing, and realizing bio/biomedical engineering devices, systems, components, or processes.
  • Making measurements on and interpreting data from living systems.

Please keep in mind that we want the students to design, build, and test their project. A project that is purely a paper design is not appropriate for the senior project. However, for more complicated builds, it is acceptable for the sponsor to provide advanced machining or fabrication for the students.

  • Sponsorship Fee:  If your project is assigned to a team, we ask all for-profit organizations to pay a sponsorship fee of $4K. This fee is used to offset technical support, consumable supplies, and overhead associated with this class.
  • Prototype Costs:  We ask all sponsors to pay for the student’s costs to produce a functional prototype of their design solution. You may specify a maximum amount for this with the students during the initial phase of the project if you wish. The details of the prototype build are finalized with your team at the Critical Design Review, when you are asked to approve the specific costs.
  • Project Support:  A non-trivial cost to sponsor your project is the cost of your time. We ask all sponsors to remain in close contact (at least weekly) with their sponsored team, to answer technical questions, stay informed about the progress, guide any decisions, and help the teaching staff evaluate the team. 

Do you have a problem or design challenge for Cal Poly engineering students? We’re always looking for good projects. Please fill out the Senior Project Proposal form if you have a project that you would like to submit. Once we receive your project idea, the teaching team will review it and get in touch with you.  

If your project fits our scope, we will arrange a time for you to present to the students in September or January (on campus or by video).  Students will identify projects of interest and the teaching team will assign teams and advisors based on interest and appropriate skills.  We only ask for the course fee if your project is assigned to a team.

Contact for further information: