Capstone students gain experience through industry partner project

Posted: February 9, 2021

Senior mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) undergraduate students have the chance to take part in capstone design projects that allow them to gain real-world experience in industry.

Ohio State capstone student designed HRSG viewport.
Ohio State capstone student designed HRSG viewport. Photo courtesy of HRST inc.

One senior capstone project is being done in collaboration with HRST Inc. HRST specializes in product design and service for heat recovery steam generators, water boilers and small gas/oil-fired power boilers.

A team of MAE students are working with HRST’s products for heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs). These HRSGs take the heat from gas turbine exhaust and use it to make steam to turn a standard steam turbine for electricity generation. This process takes place in a combined cycle power plant and increases plant efficiency.

HRST proposed two projects to the MAE students. These were based off of the success of an initial project that was completed a year prior.

Initially, HRST came to Ohio State with the idea that students would be able to redesign and improve the viewport that is used to look inside firing ducts. The student capstone team was led by MAE Professor Russell Marzette.


“These view ports are, in effect, windows and are important for inspecting the inside of firing ducts which are components in Heat Recovery Steam Generators,” said capstone student Daniel Prater.

The old view port had a small, four-inch by six-inch window. And these older versions of the firing duct view port are prone to deterioration.

“Current view port designs are prone to corrosion, have poor viewing capability, and are dangerously hot which is why this new design is important,” said Prater.

HRST’s ask for the student team was to improve the viewport in a variety of areas, including corrosion resistance, increasing safety, and improving the overall view

Last year’s students designed and delivered a prototype viewport, which is currently patent pending. HRST then took the students’ design and elected to work with a regional power plant to have the viewport installed in the field.

The success of that initial project brought HRST back to Ohio State with two more capstone projects for MAE students. The first ask was a continuation of the initial project. Students were asked to do a cost-reduction study, field testing, and potentially add remote viewing for the Ohio State-designed view port.

“This cost-focused design is more tuned for implementation and manufacturing given that it has been field tested, and its performance in HRSGs can be better understood,” said senior capstone student Nick Trent.

The second project is a redesign of HRST’s access doors for HRSGs. This included troubleshooting installation of the doors and adding features that will help increase proper access door installation.

Capstone team member Thomas Troy said the potential to work on a project that could see real-world implementation is what initially attracted him to the project. The ability to collaborate with industry engineers has also been a highlight of the process.

Ohio State capstone student designed HRSG viewport in use.
Ohio State capstone student designed HRSG viewport in use. Photo courtesy of HRST inc.

“I have enjoyed the ability to work on an industry project and to be able to communicate with current engineers in industry,” said Troy. “Being involved with an industry project requires consistent communication between the Ohio State team and HRST to keep them updated on where we are at on the project, bounce questions off them, and make sure we are heading in the right direction.”

The chance for their coursework to be implemented in the field has been a driving force behind their endeavors. The capstone students said that while the possibility their design might go into production can be daunting, they have found the industry-driven project to be an exciting and rewarding process.

“This project has well-defined expectations to meet in terms of its use and its impact,” said Trent. “No matter what we are doing, we know what the end goal is and what matters to get there.”

by Sam Cejda, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Category: Students