Couch To Campus: How SCOPE Prepares You For Your Career As An Engineer

Hi all! I’m Ruth, and I work with industry partners, faculty, staff, and students to set up projects for our Senior Capstone Program in Engineering (SCOPE). I’d like to give you an idea of what SCOPE is all about. 

Do you remember the first time you balanced on a bicycle by yourself? I remember my first solo ride quite well, because about two seconds after I realized my father had let go, I crashed into the large tree in front of my house. The accident left me with some bumps and bruises, but on my next try, I successfully rode my bike down the sidewalk. There’s an art to knowing when there’s been enough training that you can launch…and even the best cyclists have to start somewhere. 

A bicycle on a sidewalk next to a white brick wall.

There’s an art to knowing when there’s been enough training that you can launch

Olin’s Capstone experiences are, in many ways, the first ride without training wheels. In a nutshell, SCOPE is a full-year course taken in the senior year. Teams of four to five students work on significantly challenging and important real-world projects for sponsoring organizations. The program requires a big commitment from the students, as they work many hours on a long-term challenge with internal activities and deliverables (in the shape of workshops, design reviews, team health activities, and weekly updates to their faculty advisor), as well as external deliverables (engagement with and reports to their sponsor). 

Throughout the SCOPE year, the student teams are in charge of managing complex projects and learning from the minor crashes and sometimes wobbly paths they take along the way. SCOPE faculty and staff provide support but gradually let go as students prepare to close out the year by riding out into the professional world.  

A SCOPE team at a project site.

A 2019-20 SCOPE team

What makes SCOPE interesting and rewarding for students? I’ll point to three of the biggest factors:

  1. The projects are varied to offer students a choice of the best opportunities for their interests. We look for projects at the intersection of meaningful, complex, interesting, unexpected, fun, and challenging.
  2. The sponsors are exciting – this past year our student teams worked with the design group at Ford, the accessibility group at Microsoft, the mobility group at Toyota, the surgical instruments R&D (Research and Development) group at Boston Scientific, and the manufacturing test optimization group at Sonos, to name a few. Here are summaries and student posters about our most recent projects.
  3. Students take the lead! By the time Olin students are seniors, they have worked on so many hands-on projects, both independently and on teams, that they are truly ready for this Capstone experience. 

So what does SCOPE look like for students in the program? On one team last year, four students worked on a project to improve road safety by advancing the accuracy of crash reporting. Consistent collection of crash data enables better road and intersection design. The team worked with the US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center, with funding from the Santos Family Foundation, to design and prototype a mobile toolkit for first responders to crash sites. Learn more about this project here.

Students working with machinery.

SCOPE students in action

If you’re still in high school, senior year of college probably seems awfully far away. You have a lot of milestones to pass before SCOPE is on your agenda. But if you’re excited to understand more about how your time at Olin will actually prepare you to be an engineer, know that SCOPE is one of the powerful development experiences available to you on the journey.

The author.

Ruth Levine is Director of Business Development at Olin College of Engineering. She is a mechanical engineer who firmly believes the world needs more engineers with training that includes real-world problems and real-people design, within the context of environmental and societal considerations.