Senior Experience in Engineering Design (SEED)

SEED is the capstone course series for seniors in the Mechanical Engineering (ME), and Electrical Engineering (EE) program. Students work in teams to address complex and multidisciplinary problems given to them by a client. SEED projects originate as problem statements submitted by local companies, individuals, non-profits, students or UVM Faculty.  The outcome for each project is unique, but students strive to design, build and test a functional prototype that solves the clients’ unique problem.

Program cover for EDN 2023

New Clients - Submit a Project

Existing Users - Submit or Manage Your Projects

Why participate in a SEED project?

There are many reasons to submit a project and participate in SEED depending on your perspective. 

Engineering Company:

  1. SEED projects offer the opportunity to work directly with seniors who are likely to be candidates for entry-level engineering positions when they graduate.  
  2. The company gets to take a long-standing problem off the back burner for minimal cost.
  3. The company can look into a new idea or concept that may be too risky to use existing engineer resources to develop.
  4. Engineers often consider the mentoring role a welcome addition to their more typical duties.

Non-Engineering Company or Non-Profits:

  1. SEED projects offer the opportunity to solve a problem for your company that you may not be able to afford using traditional engineering firms.
  2. The company can look into a new idea, concept or product they don’t currently have the skills to design and build.


  1. SEED projects offer the opportunity to go after a new or old idea in an area you have a deep interest.
  2. The student gets to see the design process from both the client and the engineering perspective.
  3. The student gets an opportunity to work directly with the SEED instructor to steer their project toward their definition of success.


  1. SEED projects offer an opportunity to work with undergraduate students who share a passion for your area of research in small groups.
  2. The students can move forward engineering related research with a finite and well-defined deliverables at the end of the spring semester.
  3. Projects can be designed to support non-engineering related research.

Charitable Donor:

  1. Directly fund projects that otherwise would not move forward due to funding gaps.
  2. An opportunity to donate to the engineering program and see tangible results via a demonstrable project over the course of an academic year.
  3. Supports innovation in an area of interest.

How do I submit a SEED project for consideration?

If you are interested in sponsoring a SEED project, you can submit your project idea directly via the following link, Project Submittal. This link will bring you to our project management software EduSourced used for the course.  A user login is required to submit and track all projects.  If you have submitted projects in the past, you should use the same account to submit additional projects.  Submitting a project does not hold you accountable to sponsor the project nor does it guarantee acceptance into the SEED program.

If you have specific questions about the program or want to discuss a project idea prior to submittal, contact the SEED program instructor via

What is the project submission timeline and priority?

Projects need to be submitted prior to the start of the Fall semester to be considered for the SEED program. We often have more projects submitted than we have students available to work on projects. In an effort to gather and define projects earlier, we give priority to projects based on project accepted date and sponsorship level. Projects with Priority 1 will be assigned to students first. Projects with Priority 2 will be assigned to students second. Projects with Priority 3 will be assigned to students last.

Priority 1: Submitted prior to June 1 or Program/Innovation Sponsor

Priority 2: Submitted prior to July 1, Team Sponsor, or returning Startup Sponsers

Priority 3: Submitted prior to First Day of Class or all other sponsorship levels.

What is the process to get a submitted project accepted into the SEED program?

All projects submitted via the project management software are reviewed by the SEED instructor.  The instructor will work with the client to verify the scope, complexity and budget are appropriate for the course and students skill level.  Once details have been agreed upon, the client and UVM sign a Letter of Understanding (LOU).  The LOU is a non-binding agreement that outlines the expectations of both the client and UVM for the duration of the course.  At this point the project is considered Accepted and awaits selection by students.  The first week of each Fall Semester the students rank the projects in order of interest.  Students are assigned to projects based on their interest level and the project priority levels as defined in the next section.

What are clients’ responsibilities?

The client agrees to assign a liaison to the project who will attend a SEED Project Pitch Event to pitch the project to prospective students in the fall.  The liaison is required to periodically and promptly supply information to students when needed.  They are asked to review and approve the proposed budget, deliverables and support communication between UVM and the client. The liaison will be encouraged to attend two separate design reviews through the semesters either at UVM or the clients location.  In addition, we ask them to attend the UVM Design Night event at the end of the spring semester to support their design team and the other SEED projects.

We ask clients to recognize these are students who are learning the engineering design process.  They are asked to meet the needs of the client and the course, which do not always align perfectly.  We appreciate your willingness to allow for some flexibility in this process, making the learning process as rich as possible.

What does sponsoring a SEED Project cost?

The cost of a SEED project is broken into two parts, sponsorship fee, and material costs. Sponsorship fees are directly used to support the costs to run the program. The costs include, but are not limited to, special tools, safety training and equipment, lab supplies, machine shop resources, 3D printing, course administration, etc. These fees are critical to allowing the program to provide the students the resources and flexibility they need to complete a successful project.

The second cost of the program is the material costs.  These costs are very dependent on the type of project you sponsor.  We ask all project sponsors to be prepared to spend at least $1k on material costs over the course of the project.  The students are presented the budget at the beginning of the course and will work within those limits. If additional funding is needed, the SEED instructor will work with the client to determine need and source of additional funds.

Project sponsorship levels are as follows:

  • Non-Profit – no sponsorship fee, material costs only
  • Student – no sponsorship fee, $1000 for material costs
  • Startup Company (approx. 1 - 10 employees) - $1k sponsorship + $1k Material costs
  • Team Sponsor (approx. 11 - 100 employees) - $5k sponsorship, includes up to $2.5k of material costs
  • Program Sponsor (approx. 100+ employees) - $10k sponsorship, includes up to $6k of material costs
  • Innovation Sponsor – Charitable donation, 20% sponsorship and 80% for material costs

What happens during the year?

Project Management:

The SEED program uses the SCRUM framework for project managment.  Each semester is broken into 3 or 4 Sprints.  Each Sprint is planned and has a goal that is demonstrated to the client with a physical Increment.  The teams review these increments with the clients for feedback on progress and to adjust the design if needed.

Fall Semester the students will:

  • Create team roles and learn how to work as a team.
  • Understand and revise the problem statement as necessary
  • Perform a search of existing patents, products, literature, etc.
  • Investigate the design space and select a preliminary design concept (or two)
  • Create several prototype iterations for evaluation
  • Perform critical analyses for the design
  • Create a list of Engineering Specifications
  • Present a Preliminary Design Review

Spring Semester the students will:

  • Continue to design, build and test their project
  • Perform a Failure Modes Effects Analysis of their project
  • Demonstrate their working project
  • Create a poster and present their project at Design Night
  • Present a Final Design Review
  • Generate and deliver a Final Design Report, Technical Documentation Package, and working project

What about Intellectual Property?

UVM has a standard Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that can be signed by all students in the event you are concerned about disclosing confidential information.  In addition, we have a standard form where students will assign all invention rights to the client if a patent is developed as part of the course.  The students still earn the right to have their name on the patent, but the rights to the patent will belong to the client.  UVM can also use your company supplied NDA, but require sufficient time for a review by our internal counsel prior to making a project active.

Resources available to SEED Teams:

Students in the SEED program will use the SEED Lab for most of their project development.  The new lab is designed to promote group collaboration and provide the basic needs of most teams.  Features include:

  • Locked cabinets to secure each teams project
  • Large computer screens for group collaboration and presentations
  • Fume hood
  • Part vending for standard fasteners and other common parts
  • Basic electrical equipment such as power supplies, oscilloscopes, function generator etc.
  • Basic hand tools
  • Soldering station
  • Multiprocessor Virtual Machines for simulations

In addition to the SEED Lab, students have access to the following resources in CEMS.

  • Machine Shop
    • Water jet
    • 6 axis CNC Machine
    • Lathe
    • Milling machine
    • Drill press
    • other tools
  • The Fab Lab
    • 3D Printing
    • Laser cutting machine
    • Other Research Lab Tools
    • Tensile strength tester
    • Vibration table
    • Wind Tunnel
    • 1 layer Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing
  • UVM Woodshop
    • Table saw
    • Router
    • Bandsaw
    • Lathe
    • Jigsaw
    • Belt sanders
    • Drill press
  • Teaching Lab
    • SEED students can obtain access to the teaching labs used for various courses here in CEMS. A comprehensive list of lab equipment can be found by visiting the teaching lab website.

SEED Project Videos created by students from past SEED Projects:

List of past companies:

Contact the SEED Program Instructor to learn more about SEED

Dustin Rand, PE