Engineering Interdisciplinary Capstone

Engineering capstone team picture


Engineering 498 Interdisciplinary Capstone is a required senior capstone course that creates university-industry partnerships that allow companies to tackle pressing projects through motivated engineering students and provides students with impactful real-world experience. In Engineering 498, students learn the in-depth design processes that are used in industry to provide them with the knowledge they need to succeed after graduation. The ability to put that learning into practice during the course of their senior year allows them to see how it works in real-time, before they enter the job market. Students are mentored by faculty who have retired from, or are still active, in industry so they learn from someone who actively did what they are teaching and can guide from experience. Mentors work closely with both students and sponsors to ensure the students are benefitting academically, and the sponsors are able to see progress on the projects they are sponsoring. Students also work directly with sponsors so they learn how to identify client needs, source manufacturing, and complete deliverables on a set schedule, among many other tasks. Students interested in participating in a Biosphere 2 specific project should reach out to their engineering department and John Adams at

UArizona Interdisciplinary Capstone Website

Past Biosphere 2 Capstones: 

Biosphere Ocean Life Support

Project number: 18116

Sponsor: UA Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Academic year: 2018-2019

The 30 micron primary drum filters in the Biosphere 2 life-support system required backwash because they were failing to remove dissolved and suspended organic material from the Biosphere 2 ocean. The goal of the backwash treatment was to identify optimal conditions for reuse while simultaneously minimizing any potential waste stream. This required multiple mass balances, process train designs, and ocean chemistry knowledge. Mechanical processes such as rapid sand filtration and ultrafiltration were used to remove turbidity, and chemical processes such as ozonation and ultraviolet treatment removed harmful microbes within the backwash.

Biosphere 2 Controlled Systems Monitors

Project number: 19094

Sponsor: UA Biosphere 2

Academic year: 2019-2020

Project Goal: To design and build real-time, low-cost, high-precision, high-accuracy environmental monitoring systems for two controlled environments at Biosphere 2.This project developed two low-cost environmental monitoring systems for different controlled environments at the University of Arizona Biosphere 2. Each embedded sensor system consists of the necessary circuitry, software and mechanical housing required for their respective environments –one aquatic, and the other terrestrial. The Coral Reef Raceway Monitoring System measures water temperature, pH and salinity, housed in a compact, waterproof case with a built-in touchscreen and number pad for user input and control. It uses inexpensive components that improve upon the bulky, inconvenient and expensive commercial alternatives. The Lunar Greenhouse Monitoring System features temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide air quality monitoring in a protective case that interfaces with existing equipment in use at the exhibit. Each system is equipped with an LED and email alert system to signal when values are out of desired bounds. 

Biosphere Ocean Wave Generator

Project number: 19102

Sponsor: UA Biosphere 2

Academic year: 2019-2020

Project Goal: To improve the reliability of the ocean wave generator at the University of Arizona Biosphere 2so it more accurately simulates the ocean environment. The wave generator is a key piece of equipment at Biosphere 2. It ensures water is well-mixed with no stratification. This team recommended replacement parts for the wave generator. Criteria included that the replacements be readily available, low-maintenance, cost-effective, and equal to or better than the quality to existing parts. In addition, the team created a maintenance manual and troubleshooting guide for quick response to malfunctions. With the recommended upgrades, the system now has more reliable gates, automated electrical actuators, and code that controls the actuators of the system. It also monitors the water level in the troughs and activates an interlock if the water level passes a critical height.

Biosphere 2 Landscape Evolution Observatory Upgrade

Project number: 19128

Sponsor: UA Biosphere 2

Academic year: 2019-2020

Project Goal: To upgrade the existing irrigation system and design a lithium chloride tracer injection system for the Mini Landscape Evolution Observatory at Biosphere 2.The Landscape Evolution Observatory at Biosphere 2 studies how the landscape is affected by physical and biological processes, how water flow is affected by time and climate change, and how biological communities evolve in response to changes in landscape and environment. The LEO is a single, ongoing operation that cannot be paused or restarted. Therefore, Biosphere 2 researchers perform pilot-scale tests on a mini LEO before making changes to the Landscape Evolution Observatory. The team developed a comprehensive design and cost estimation for making the mini LEO's injection system compatible with existing equipment. Design constraints included the uniform distribution of rainfall, existing sensor network, and placement of irrigation heads in relation to the gas chamber and grow lights.

Pressure Regulating System for a Mars Habitat

Project number: 21066

Sponsor: UA Biosphere 2

Academic year: 2020-2021

Project Goal: Design a system that maintains a positive pressure in a closed Moon and Mars habitat to prevent the introduction of foreign contaminants. Maintaining a pressurized vessel is paramount to human survival in the hostile environment of the Moon or Mars. The Automated Pressure Regulation System will ultimately be attached to a high-fidelity Mars habitat analog at Biosphere 2 as part of research into off-world habitation. The APRS prototype is attached to a one-tenth-scale model of the analog crew quarters. An array of sensors and a Raspberry Pi computer detect the internal pressure of the living quarters. Based on these readings, the system uses a compressor and solenoid valve to either store air in tanks or release air into the system to maintain a steady pressure. A user interface enables the crew to monitor real-time internal and ambient pressures. The system can be operated in either automatic or manual mode. The scale model properly maintains the required positive pressure differential, thus validating the design. With testing concluded, the APRS is ready for full-scale implementation. 

Automated system for measuring ecosystem gas fluxes in tropical forests

Project number: 22061

Sponsor: UA Biosphere 2

Academic year: 2021-2022

The chamber design is mainly to create a small air volume above (soil/water) or next to (tree stems) where gas concentrations change much faster than in ambient air, which then can be used to calculate surface fluxes. To measure the gas concentrations the air is circulated between the instrument and the chamber. The control interface would capture the change in gas concentrations, switch between different chambers (we plan to measure 10 tree stems and 5 soil/water surfaces), but also control the pistons that push the chamber against a tree stem surface or a base on the soil or water surface to seal the chamber against the surface.

Sub-scale Adsorption and Compression CO2 Removal System Re-design

Project number: 22014

Sponsor: NASA

Academic year: 2021-2022

The student team effort will include design, thermal-flow modeling, build, and test of a sub-scale TC-TSAC to determine its capability to integrate CO2 removal and compression into a single system. SAM team members and individuals at NASA will oversee requirements definition and provide system design assistance and data- sharing. The projects and products of the challenge will be evaluated by NASA subject matter experts currently working in the topic area and may be integrated into prototypes for the purpose of operational and functional evaluation opportunities.