Cornerstone (Design II) Clients and Projects

What Makes a Good Design Project for a Student Engineering Team

Project submissions for the Fall semester 2023 will be accepted until August 1, 2023 using the link provided below.

The Cornerstone Program is pleased to have the opportunity to provide our students with “real world” design problems presented by clients and their organizations. This interaction not only strengthens each student’s understanding of technical design and develops complex problem-solving skills by dealing with a realistic over- or under-constrained problem, but also helps to develop professional skills, like communication, teamwork, engaging with stakeholders to keep client and community needs in focus, while iterating through a design process, skills that are the often toughest to teach – but are among the most useful to future professionals. We hear from employers of our alumni that the skills reinforced in our design courses are critical considerations in their hiring decisions. 

Cornerstone projects are proposed by both members of the campus community as well as by outside clients, such as business owners, working engineers and scientists, and CSM alumni. In addition to offering mentorship as clients to student design teams, some organizations choose to offer academic or administrative sponsorship for projects, including donations of materials or funding. We are always accepting donations to the program. While this sort of support is very much appreciated, is it not necessary. The students are expected to spend up to $100 per person toward their materials or prototyping costs.

Do You Have a Project to Propose?

If you have a project in mind and are wondering if it might be a good fit, in addition to meeting our learning objectives, below are some project guidelines to consider.


Here are a few considerations:

  • How suitable is the project scope for a one-semester second-year course?
  • How well does the project reflect a real-world situation which has not yet been satisfactorily solved? 
  • How easily does the project lend itself to data collection, analysis and interpretation, and to computer-based modeling? 
  • How suitable is this project to decision analysis (i.e., selection of a solution from multiple alternatives) and to subsystem analysis (i.e., division into individual components)? 
  • How well does this project lend itself to design by a five-member team?
  • Is it open-ended, meaning is there a wide variety of possible solutions and concepts?

The following types of projects are excluded from student project consideration:

  • A project which requires the use or modification of a “dangerous weapon” as defined by Mines Policy.
  • A project which requires human involvement that has the potential to cause detrimental or damaging impact to a person.
  • A project which does not include both opportunity/alternative assessment as well as detailed design/prototyping.
  • A project which promotes drugs or other products which do not comply with federal law.
  • Projects that involve research only. These types of projects are better suited to graduate students typically, rather than undergraduates. However, if you are considering hiring an intern to conduct research, we invite you to work with our career office.
  • Projects that involve the evaluation of the structural integrity of a personal dwelling, or the building of structures or portions of a personal dwelling.

Some examples of project deliverables typically Include 2-4 of the following:

  • Functional proof of concept
  • Prototype
  • Site plan
  • Engineering drawings
  • Operating instructions
  • Budget
  • Implementation plan
  • Test method (typically, we do not have the specific equipment required for full prototype testing)
  • Assembly instructions
  • User or stakeholder studies, analyses, including community engagement
  • Research summaries
  • Handoff instructions, etc.

While every project certainly has its own nuances, you can generally expect the following for your role as one of our student project clients:

  1. Your organization supplies a representative who is willing and available to interact with the Cornerstone team(s) periodically throughout the one-semester course.  Student teams are formed based on their choice of project. You will meet with each project team of four-six students for presentations and consultation at least three (3) times during the semester. You determine the number of teams that you wish to work with. Client engagement with student teams is often a leading indicator of student project success and student and client project satisfaction.
  2. Students may request data as they begin the problem-solving process. Examples include research data, current state of the project/plan, ideas considered or attempted in the past, plant or process information, and computer programs that might help the team with the project. Any information or resources that would be helpful for them to get grounded and contextualized in their efforts may be provided. If the specific data is unavailable or hard to find, you may be asked to provide guidance as to how students can procure this information themselves. Of course, some subject matter is sensitive or confidential. If this is the case with your project, please notify the professor as well as the team, so that appropriate measures can be taken to ensure confidentiality. Clients may also request that each student on the team sign the Student Non-Disclosure Agreement provided here.
  3. Depending on your project, your student team might actually invent something worth patenting! If that is the case, the student team is the inventor, per  35 U.S.Code 101, Inventions Patentable and Mines policy for undergraduate students:

“Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

In certain cases where you, or your company, wish to maintain the IP rights of the work that the team will perform, and the final deliverables or prototypes, we are open to the possibility of implementing an IP waiver agreement if you agree to support the program through a financial contribution to cover the cost of the prototype or materials.


If you have an idea for a Cornerstone project that meets our project guidelines, we would love to see your proposal! We are always accepting submissions, however we start projects in August and January only. The sooner you submit your project before the start of the semester, the more time we have to review your project and share with the faculty. Submit your project here.


If you would like to know more about the Cornerstone Design@Mines Program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of us: 

Yosef Allam
Director, Cornerstone Design@Mines, EDS

Leah Fitzgerald
Stakeholder Relations Manager, EDS