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Student Projects

The Rapid Center is a university-based, product development center that helps clients refine existing products, develop new ones and improve business practices. Industry-experienced faculty and staff work with project sponsors and business partners throughout the Southeast and beyond to address their specific needs.  The Rapid Center is an essential component of WCU's College of Engineering and Technology and its educational and economic development mission..

Propose a Project

If, like many of your colleagues, you have more items on your development list than you can get to with limited time and resources, we invite you to propose a project for our two-semester senior capstone project.

In order to be considered for this rigorous academic program, projects must be:

  • Open ended, requiring students to evaluate multiple solutions.
  • Complex and challenging, requiring innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Just beyond our students’ present courses, requiring self-directed learning.
  • Of sufficient scope to require a team approach.

Student Teams

You can be sure that all projects receive serious attention and a considerable amount of time and energy from our student teams as well as their course instructors and faculty mentors. Formed into teams of two to four members, our students use a multidisciplinary approach – including engineering - mechanical, engineering - electric power, electrical engineering, electrical and computer engineering technology and engineering technology – to work on their projects.

Stage/Gate Process

To simulate actual work environments, students are required to use a stage/gate process, progressing from a project proposal to a minimum of three conceptual designs; continuing to a preliminary design review, a critical design review and fabrication and testing of a prototype; and finishing with a wrap up of the documentation, test results and modifications, if needed, to resolve any issues revealed through testing.

Project-Sponsor Obligations

As a project sponsor, you would be required to provide:

  • A fee of $3,000 plus any material costs and travel to your location your project requires.
  • An active industry mentor to work with the students and monitor their progress.
  • The time to be involved in at least two project assessment events during the year.
  • Attending the Annual Capstone Luncheon and Symposium at the end of the Project and Spring Semester.

Project-Sponsor Benefits

When we collaborate on your project, you will havethe satisfaction of knowing you are helping our students gain valuable experience by tackling real problems in an actual setting. You also will have an opportunity to evaluate soon-to-graduate seniors as potential employees while they are working. Finally, when the project is complete, you will have a fully tested prototype, proof of concept, project solution or new knowledge that, if you wish, you can use or develop further.

Project Development - August to May

If the idea of proposing one or more projects and sponsoring a student team interests you, please contact Patrick Gardner or Andy Ritenour at or  You may also reach us at 828-227-2560. We would love to discuss your idea prior to the start of the next semester so it can be reviewed for the next Senior Capstone Project. Other ideas are welcome and may be considered for future team work.

After a preliminary contact, Dr.  Gardner and/or Dr. Ritenour will plan to a visit your facility, if they have not already done so, to talk with you about the context of your project and what you can expect from your participation with us. If your project is accepted, he will ask you to prepare a half-page description for students to consider. In August, they will choose their top three priorities, and we will form teams to begin work immediately, with completion scheduled for next May.

If you have participated in the senior capstone project before, we would appreciate an email with your new project proposal(s). Dr.Gardner and/or Dr. Ritenour will follow up with a phone call to discuss details.

Business Partners

If you have a more complex project with a specific deadline and budget, our faculty would be glad to put the extensive capabilities of the Rapid Center to work for you. Please contact Patrick Gardner at or 828-227-2560 to discuss a business partnership that meets your needs.

Learn More

The College of Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University with offices, classrooms and labs located in the Belk Building and the Center for Applied Technology on WCU's main campus in Cullowhee, N.C.

Visit the School

We invite you to visit the College of Engineering and Technology to learn more about what the school is doing to promote enhanced engineering and technology education and technology-led economic development for our region.

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