Sponsor a Senior Design Project

Senior Design projects at the University of Rochester provide companies with the opportunity to work with the next generation of engineers, scientists, and programmers. As part of these projects, our students create custom solutions to given problems while under the observation and guidance of a University faculty advisor. Potential benefits to sponsors include:

  • Assistance with an exploratory project
  • A chance to work with students who will soon be entering the job market
  • The potential to interact with engineering faculty
  • Technical assistance in an unfamiliar area
  • A chance to contribute to the educational mission of the University

You do not need to be an engineer to sponsor a project. Technical guidance will be provided by the course instructor.


Senior Design was created to provide students with an opportunity to plan and execute a design or research project. Proposed projects should be open-ended or allow for some creativity. Students are assessed based on their approach and execution, not the project outcome per se, so a proposed project may not be successful.

In general, projects should:

  • Be in the beginning stages of the process (i.e., not already in the building or testing or deployment stage)
  • Have a flexible timeline
  • Have a well-defined goal or hypothesis that can be tested within the time frame
  • Be open to multiple possible solutions

Most project teams are drawn from a single major, like mechanical engineering or computer/data science. However, we do accept projects with multidisciplinary content. A multidisciplinary team (or combination of teams) may be possible in some cases. Sponsors can work with any department in the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences or with students in academic programs in the Goergen Institute for Data Science.

Past projects include a:

See these articles for more examples of previous engineering and data science projects.


Engineering projects generally start in early fall and end in early May. Data science projects can start in either fall or spring and are one semester long.


At the end of the project, the sponsoring organization receives a copy of the final report and possibly a hardware or software prototype (depending on the project).

Sponsor’s Role

Sponsors need to attend an initial meeting or phone call with the course instructor to define or refine the project’s scope.

Once a student team has been assigned, sponsors have an initial meeting with the team and provide any materials or data necessary for the project.

Sponsors have weekly or bi-weekly meetings (face-to-face or online) during the active project term (January–April for engineering projects; fall or spring for data science projects). These meetings allow student teams to provide sponsors with formal and informal progress reports, as well as an opportunity for the teams to seek advice, help, and better understanding of the context/motivations behind the project.

In early May, engineering students have an exit meeting with their sponsor to transfer the final report and any deliverables. (Data science projects have a similar exit meeting at the end of the project, fall or spring.) In addition, sponsors are invited to attend the team presentation during Design Day (held at the end of April or beginning of May).

Intellectual Property

The Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences recognizes, respects and will adhere to the right of industry sponsors to protect their intellectual property (IP) and sensitive trade secrets.

In cases where sponsored projects involve improvements to existing products and processes developed by the sponsor, the sponsor rightly retains the right to its background IP throughout the course of the senior design project.

Undergraduate students typically own the intellectual property that they create at the University of Rochester.If a sponsor requires ownership rights of intellectual property developed by students in a Senior Design project, it may request that students complete a non-disclosure agreement/intellectual property (NDA/IP) agreement.Students are not obligated to participate in projects that require the assignment of the student’s intellectual property to a sponsor. Occasionally, new products and processes are invented in the course of a sponsored senior design project. In such cases, if a patent is filed and a student meets the legal definition to be an inventor, then it is appropriate for the sponsor to include the student(s) as a named inventor on the patent.

Sponsors should not expect that University faculty will have significant creative involvement in a Senior Design project. If such faculty involvement is required, the faculty member may contribute to the project in a way that would make them an inventor to any invention during the project, and ownership of such invention will vest in the University of Rochester in accordance with its IP Policy. Therefore, such a project may not be suitable as a Senior Design project, but rather should be considered for sponsored research or other arrangements with the University.

In the case of a project that benefits from a University of Rochester faculty member’s existing IP, such as a unique algorithm developed by the faculty member and applied to the sponsored senior design project, that IP continues to reside with the faculty member and the University and may not be claimed by the sponsoring company

Sponsors must agree not to hold students, the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, or the University of Rochester responsible for the final success of the project or any product liability.

Student teams will be permitted to discuss and display their project in public forums unless there is an explicit agreement with the sponsor not to do so. If requested, sponsors will have an opportunity to review, comment, and edit company specific materials before public display on design day at the end of the semester.

If students need access to sensitive or proprietary information to complete the project, sponsors can request that the student group completes a non-disclosure agreement/intellectual property (NDA/IP) agreement. If faculty members also need access to sensitive or proprietary information to adequately advise students, sponsors can set up an NDA with the University through the University of Rochester technology transfer office, URVentures.

Though the intent of the senior design program is that all innovations come from the students, in some cases faculty may also make patentable contributions. Though the University owns intellectual property created by its employees (including faculty), our practice for inventions arising from senior design projects is not to file for intellectual property protection.

Contact Curtis Broadbent from URVentures at (585) 273-3250 or curtis.broadbent@rochester.edu with any questions regarding intellectual property.

Student Teams

Student teams usually have three or four students from the same major. However, larger teams (or multiple teams) might work on a project with larger scope.


Design projects are screened to assess adequacy of local resources and time. Generally, there is no cost to the sponsoring organization for the project work, and student groups usually have a small budget (around a few hundred dollars) available for supplies and/or access to University of Rochester high performance computing resources. If a project requires significant materials or resources beyond this, the sponsor may need to agree to provide funding or other support as part of the project plan. This will be discussed and resolved with the instructor early in the process.

Sponsors need to make a time commitment to advise and mentor their student team on a pre-agreed basis during the active project duration.


Interested in sponsoring a Senior Design project? Complete the online Senior Design project request form.


Contact Paul Funkenbusch, associate dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at (585) 275-3371 or paulfunkenbusch@rochester.edu with any questions about Senior Design projects.