students wearing virtual reality headsets

Senior Design

Danielle Ouellette and Dana NicholsonCalled ‘capstone’ courses, senior design courses are culminating design classes give students a rigorously challenging, real-world, immersive engineering experience we call Overture Engineering. Senior design projects focus on helping students synthesize and apply the science, mathematics, engineering, and design skills taught in earlier courses. It also provides students with the opportunity to apply and exercise the more advanced material taught in the junior and senior years.

Virtual Company: Overture Engineering

Senior CEE majors try their hand at real-world design through a set of integrated capstone courses as part of Overture Engineering, a ficticous design company that "employs" them. Overture Engineering has three divisions: architecural, environmental, and structural. All students are required to take either Integrated Structural Design (CEE 429(192), the structural division) from Associate Professor of the Practice and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Joseph Nadeau, PE, or Integrated Environmental Design (CEE 469(193), the environmental division) from Associate Professor of the Practice and Associate Chair, David Schaad, PE. These capstone courses for the major are interwoven with Architectural Engineering II (CEE 411(162), the architectural division) the capstone architectural engineering course taught by Adjunct Professor, Chris Brasier FAIA, LEED AP, MBA.

Student "employees" work within their division and then collaborate in cross-divisional teams. The groups tackle all the normal aspects of real-world engineering project. In a recent project, students collaborated on the design of 50,000 square feet of campus research space. To kick-off the project, a site development roundtable was conducted utilizing local, multidisciplinary, design professionals. Students were responsible for different facets of the project, ultimately working as teams for the most cost-effective, code and standards compliant design. As project deliverables, students develop suitable documentation and reports supporting design assumptions and decisions, in a manner sufficient for bidding.

The Duke immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE) provides students an experiental opportunity that reveals the impact and inter-relationship of technical and aesthetic decisions made during the design process. The six-sided virual reality theater provides an immersive and fully interactive spatial experience of the Overture's team design solutions. 

The structural engineering senior design team focuses on the gravity and lateral force resisting systems of the structure, while the environmental engineering design team deals with the land impact issues around the structure. There is plenty of interaction between the two camps. Many students take both the architectural capstone and either the structural or environmental capstone, so they are see the project from both an architectural and an engineering perspective.

The approximate scope each Division's responsibilities are:

Architectural Division (CEE 411(162))

  • Siting of Project
  • Development of Program (space use, dimension)
  • Finish Floor Elevations

Structural Division (CEE 429(192))

  • Foundation Design
  • Column and Beam Design
  • Slab on Grade and Floor Slab Design
  • Retaining Wall Design

Environmental Division (CEE 469(193))

  • Environmental Site Assessment/Remedial Design
  • Wastewater Treatment Unit Process Design
  • Grading and Erosion Control Plan (including an analysis of the slope stability)
  • Stormwater Plan
  • Stream Restoration and Wetland Creation Design
  • Water Distribution Design
  • Wastewater Conveyance System Design

Project Management (CEE 649(292)/679(293))

  • Establishing Direct vs. Indirect Expenses and Associated Multiplier, Bill Rates and Budget for the Project
  • Tracking Utilization and Schedule Compliance

For the successful completion of the project, it is critically important that the Divisions work together as the decisions made by one affected the work plan of the other (layout and location of the building impacted the foundation design, the grading plan, the foundation wall height and location, potential stream and wetland creation requirements, etc.). During the semester, the classes hold joint roundtable discussions where design issues affecting all the classes are addressed.