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Dr. Joanna Tsenn
Dr. Joanna Tsenn serves as both the projects coordinator and an instructor for the mechanical engineering department’s senior capstone design program. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Inspired by her own experience with a senior capstone design project, Dr. Joanna Tsenn now seeks to help undergraduate students bridge the gap between the classroom and industry through projects of their own. 

“Senior design was one of my favorite classes when I was a student — in fact, it is why I chose to do my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering design,” said Tsenn, instructional assistant professor in the J. Mike Walker '66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. 

Tsenn serves as both the projects coordinator and an instructor for the mechanical engineering department’s senior capstone design program — a role in which she finds great pride and fulfillment. Using her passion for the course material, helping students and problem-solving, alongside her organizational strengths, Tsenn said the department’s senior design program is a uniquely impactful experience. 

“I think our capstone program is one of the best,” Tsenn said. “We have larger teams and they focus on the same project for two semesters, so they are able to tackle bigger projects. With the Fischer Engineering Design Center, access to departmental equipment and tools, and faculty support, the teams are able to accomplish incredible work over the course of their projects.” 

The two-semester senior capstone design program provides students with open-ended design projects — many times supported by industry sponsors — that require students to apply their knowledge by completing a needs analysis, identifying requirements, generating concepts, selecting a solution and validating their solution. 

Tsenn said in addition to learning to apply their engineering education to real-world applications through a hands-on design process, another primary focus of the program is to help students develop their professional skills, including communication, teamwork, project management, critical thinking, decision making, creativity and adaptability. 

She said seeing students take all of these lessons and use them to complete their projects is one of her favorite things about the program. 

“I want the teams to take the lead and take ownership of their projects,” Tsenn said. “I can tell that we have been successful as instructors when the teams no longer need us to guide them. It is a great feeling to receive a team update where they identified a problem, developed solutions and figured out how to get back on track all on their own.