Capstone project drives real-world experience
Capstone projects bring real-world challenges into the classroom and Spencer Steele, who graduates with a bachelor of applied science from Simon Fraser University next week, tackled many of these while building a racing car over an eight-month period.
The Maple Ridge resident, along with seven other students in mechatronic systems engineering, created the SF-1 team to build an open-wheeled, Formula One-inspired racing car according to Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards. He led the team during the 2012-2013 academic year as its founder and captain.
“It was a big project, designing a car with nothing to go off of,” says the Garibaldi secondary school grad. “That was a big challenge. We learned how to research, take things apart and work hard. I apply that to a lot of things now.”
The team worked out of Steele’s home garage because shop space on campus was not available.
Throughout the project, Steele learned valuable business skills. This included learning how to design a product to satisfy a specific market need, working with teams of people from concept to construction, and tailoring pitches to potential sponsors.
The SF-1 team raised almost $10,000, as well as donated equipment and parts from 15 sponsors and in-kind donors, ranging from car-parts retailers to marine-equipment companies and student/industry associations.
While Steele had restored and modified a couple of his own cars, he had never pursued professional training in the automotive industry. He says that initiative and motivation drove the team forward.
He has always had a competitive bent. He coached in the Maple Ridge high school sport system for three years as a swimming instructor while studying at SFU. His swim team, made up of students from three secondary schools, competed at provincial-level championships.
Steele and his team earned an A for their capstone project, and they’re passing on the car to a new group of undergraduate students who will improve it and make it road-ready for competitions.
He is now working as a mechanics systems engineer at Coquitlam-based Resonance Technology, where he designs drilling and pile-driving technology.
Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.
Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.