Students in BYU’s engineering program are not just engineers in the making—they’re engineers who are making things. The comprehensive four-year program moves from theoretical design classes to projects for corporate clients. And for one group of students, this A-to-Z learning became key to their education.
Led by team coach and part-time faculty member Terri Christiansen Bateman (BS ’93), students J. Robert (Robbie) Jackson (BS ’06), Russell G. Stout (’06), Jason A. Jackson (’06), James R. Cook (’06), Shafer R. Taylor (BS ’06), and Trevor A. Downs (BS ’06) produced a new ergonomic keyboard during Capstone, the final course for many BYU mechanical engineering, industrial design, and manufacturing engineering technology students.
Capstone takes on projects from businesses, giving students a chance to create real-life products and allowing the businesses to keep all intellectual property. NMB Technologies commissioned the keyboard project, charging Bateman’s team to create a keyboard that better fit the natural contours of the fingers while maintaining an aesthetic design.
After working for two semesters, the group surpassed NMB’s expectations. In their market research, 46 percent of students preferred the new keyboard to several other options—traditional and ergonomic. Their final product is patent pending, and NMB is negotiating a December 2007 release with a major keyboard distributor.
This success is just what Robert H. Todd, professor of mechanical engineering and founding director of Capstone, envisioned when he and two other professors created the class. Using a baseball metaphor he says, “In engineering education, students have a class in hitting, catching, pitching, fielding, and base-running but haven’t played the game. In Capstone they get to play the game.”
Bateman was pleased with the group’s ability to communicate with NMB Technologies and understand its needs. She believes these skills led to “a final product the customer was delighted with.”