Resources for Undergraduate Student Projects

Resources for Student Projects

The AEM Department recognizes the value of student design projects and competitions to our students' education, and encourages these projects. The department has tried to help support these projects financially. However given our limited discretionary funds and the increasing number of requests for these funds, it is critical that student groups are well organized both in asking for and spending departmental (and other) funds.

In general the student projects are either part of the Senior Design courses taken for credit (AEM 4331 and AEM 4333) or are extracurricular and not for class credit. Senior Design projects have priority over the extracurricular activities, including assignment of space in the department.

If ever in doubt about something being within the University Travel Policy, reimbursement, or purchases, please see Molly Schmitz in 107 Akerman Hall or send an e-mail at:

NOTE: For any student group, supplies are guaranteed by approved department budget only. Travel funding is not guaranteed, is limited, and will be evaluated each year.

Design Team

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Guidelines for Senior Design Projects


Student groups are required to develop a budget for supplies and services necessary to successfully complete their projects. These budgets must be approved by the faculty member(s) who are officially assigned to teach AEM 4331 and AEM 4333. The faculty members will specify the maximum amount of funds for each project based on the funds available and the funds required to successfully complete each individual project. Students may obtain outside funding to supplement funding provided by the Department; however, these funds must be managed by the Department and are subject to all applicable University of Minnesota policies.

Accepting and Managing Gifts | Business Expense Policy


Some student groups may travel to competitions or conferences. Each student group planning on traveling must submit a travel budget which must be approved by the faculty member(s) officially assigned to teach the design courses. The magnitude of each proposal will be determined by the funds available. Funds will be distributed in a manner which is equitable for each student. Students should anticipate paying some of the costs associated with travel themselves. Students are encouraged to seek outside funding to supplement the travel funds provided by the department. These funds are subject to the stipulations which apply to supplies (see above).

University of Minnesota Travel Policy


Student purchases must be approved by the faculty member(s) teaching the design courses and must be submitted to the department with the proper forms and documentation. Each team should have only two or at most three individuals responsible for submitting expenses and must maintain a running account of expenses to ensure that cost over runs are avoided. Purchases and reimbursements will not be made unless departmental policies and practices including use of the proper forms are followed.

University of Minnesota Purchase Policy |  Purchasing Policy & Procedure  |  Senior Design Purchase Request Form

Meeting with Staff

At the beginning of each semester, it is required that student teams set up a meeting with one of the AEM Accounting staff contacts listed below so any questions can be answered regarding purchases, reimbursements, and travel. The AEM Accounting staff will not process any orders or reimbursements that are incomplete or have not followed the instructions, policies, and procedures.* 

Molly Schmitz -  |  Lisa Schouviller -

Extracurricular Student Projects

Faculty Advisor

Student teams must have a faculty advisor and must work with their faculty advisor to (a) define and clarify the project plan (b) assign roles and responsibilities to project team members.

Student teams should work with their faculty advisor to develop a budget for supplies and services necessary to successfully complete their projects.


Student teams should prepare separate budgets for projected travel costs if applicable. Students should anticipate paying some of the costs associated with travel themselves. However, departmental funds are limited and evaluated each year. Students are encouraged to seek outside funding to help cover the cost of both supplies and travel; however, these funds must be managed by the department and are subject to all applicable University of Minnesota policies.

Funds & Reimbursements

Any requests for funding from the Department must be approved by the faculty advisor and then brought to the Department Head and the Departmental senior administrator for review and for a decision. We recognize that budgets evolve over time, and so students must track their spending in order to help justify any requests for additional funding.

In order to facilitate any reimbursements, and to ensure that Departmental staff know which projects are active, teams are required to provide the following information at the start of the project:

  1. Team name
  2. Faculty advisor
  3. Team members
  4. Two to three teams leads. The team leads will be responsible for communicating and managing the team purchases, travel, and budget with the AEM Accounting staff. All expenses must be approved by the faculty advisor.

Lab Space

Anderson Student Innovations Lab

Three Anderson Student Innovation Labs add more than 10,000 square feet of hands-on learning space for CSE students, all with state-of-the-art equipment and space for student group projects, design and capstone course projects, and student entrepreneurs. Two of the Anderson Student Innovation Labs are located in the Mechanical Engineering Building and one is in the Civil Engineering Building. Mechanical Engineering, Room 2134 is designed primarily for rapid prototyping and is home to more than 20 3D printers, 4 laser cutters, an electronics assembly area, and meeting space for collaborative group work; Mechanical Engineering, Room 176 upgrades a traditional machine shop with top-of-the line equipment, and the lab in the Civil Engineering Building includes additional 3D printers, a 3D scanner for digitizing objects, a materials testing load frame, welding facilities, and a comprehensive collection of woodworking tools. All CSE students can access these spaces during their open hours, though different categories of equipment require different levels of safety training. Some limited project storage is available on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested in using these labs, your team can drop in during the open hours or contact the lab manager, Ben Guengerich, by email ( or phone (612-624-4681). The Student Machine located in the Mechanical Engineering building is also available to reserve.

For any more information regarding lab space please visit our facilities.

AEM Purchasing Guidelines for Students

Step 1 - Preparation

Senior Design student projects and Extracurricular student projects should follow these guidelines below. The University's policy is to pay for necessary and reasonable travel and reimbursement expenses incurred for authorized University business by employees and approved non-employees.

  • Be aware of the University of Minnesota's Purchasing Policy.
  • Complete the Purchase Request Form thoroughly and in its entirety. 
  • Obtain approval for all purchases. Each Purchase Request Form requires the signature of the faculty advisor for that particular group.
  • Track the budget for your project. The AEM Accounting Staff can provide your project group a printout of expenses to use in reconciling the budget, but this is ultimately the responsibility of the project group.

Step 2 - Ordering

All orders are typically placed within 24 to 48 hours of the completed and signed purchase request being received. Please note that completing the forms correctly and completely will help to expedite the process. Emailed Purchases Requests WILL NOT be accepted. You must turn in the completed and signed purchase request to 107 Akerman Hall.

If the order requires a quote, please be sure to attach it. If you are placing a bulk order from one vendor, you may want to do a printout of the cart.

Be sure to check UMarket to see if the desired product is available there. If it is available at UMarket, then it must be purchased through UMarket. Please assign the cart you create to Molly Schmitz at or Hanna Pahr at, as well submitting the purchase request to them. The Purchase Request Form is required for UMarket. If you need to be set up as a buyer in UMarket, please contact Molly Schmitz.

Look carefully when ordering to ensure the product you want isn't on backorder. This may cause a delay in ordering and/or shipping.

All orders are shipped ground unless otherwise noted by the requestor. Ground shipping typically takes 5-7 business days. Please be mindful if you are ordering from a company outside the U.S. as it will likely take longer than 5-7 business days.

All orders will be shipped under the Team lead's name. The only exception is Horizon Hobby, see below.

You will not receive an email when a package arrives. It is your responsibility to periodically check 107 Akerman for your packages.

You must sign your package out on the clipboard. This will help us track any packages if they should go missing or if someone takes the wrong package.

Packing slips MUST BE turned into Hanna Pahr in 107 AkerH. If there are any issues with your team turning in packing slips, orders will not be placed until all outstanding packing slips have been received.

To check the status of your order please see staff in 107 AkerH or send an e-mail to


We can order from Horizon Hobby. However, the billing/shipping must have the same name, which can get very confusing if several teams are all placing orders from Horizon Hobby around the same time.

We DO NOT or CANNOT Order from:

  • Hansen Hobbies
  • HobbyKing
  • Advantage Hobby

AEM Travel & Reimbursement Guidelines

General Reimbursement

Senior Design student projects and Extracurricular student projects should follow these guidelines below. The University's policy is to pay for necessary and reasonable travel and reimbursement expenses incurred for authorized University business by employees and approved non-employees.

Ideally all orders should be placed through the department. If a last minute emergency or weekend purchase happens, students can submit the receipt for reimbursement. General Reimbursement Forms are located in file basket in 107 Akerman.

  • Out-of-Pocket Purchase Provision: Occasionally circumstances may make it impossible to use one of the approved purchasing processes (U Stores, P card, purchase order, etc.). Employees should attempt to secure preapproval from their approving authority to make an out-of-pocket purchase. Employees will be reimbursed for approved out-of-pocket purchases if the purchase meets all other compliance and policy requirements for reasonableness. See Administrative Procedure: Purchasing Goods and Services.
  • Submitting Reimbursement: Travel and expense reimbursement requests which are not adequately documented in accordance with Administrative Policy: Documenting Financial/Accounting Transactions, or are not submitted within 60 days, should be denied.
  • Business Mileage Business mileage is the travel an employee incurs beyond normal commute mileage (from home to the office and home again) on a normal workday. Employees may request reimbursement for any business mileage incurred. The mileage rate includes gas, vehicle maintenance, insurance, and other personal vehicle-related costs. If seeking mileage reimbursement for traveling to purchase EMERGENCY supplies, this would fall under the Purchasing Policy that states "Employees should attempt to secure preapproval from their approving authority to make an out-of-pocket purchase." Note: The AEM Department only reimburses for mileage while in travel status to either competitions or to do flight testing.  Students are strongly encouraged to order or purchase supplies as outlined earlier in this document. We do not reimburse individuals for driving somewhere to purchase supplies.

Best practice is for each project group to have a team lead or a designated person (or two) making purchases and submitting reimbursements.

General Reimbursement Form

General Reimbursement UG Travel Expense Form

MUST be COMPLETELY filled out:

  • Address is especially important as this is where the check will go.
  • Ignore budget section.
  • Include team lead's name and the project's team name.
  • If there's a receipt with multiple items, you can list in the description box to see attached receipt.
  • Original detailed receipts are required.
  • Must have faculty advisor's signature.
  • Be sure to include why the item(s) purchased are needed. Also include a one or two sentence description of your project.

General Travel Information

While traveling on University Business, which includes student competitions, it is your responsibility to know University Travel Policy.

Any reimbursement must be discussed and approved by faculty advisor before travel. AEM staff Molly Schmitz, 612-626-2689, and Lisa Schouviller, 612-626-8315,, also must be notified if you will be traveling. Do not assume you will be reimbursed for expenses - the AEM department is limited on funds.

If your project team will be traveling to competition, your team and/or team lead should meet with Molly and Lisa for further details and instructions.

Excerpts from U-Policy web page:

  • "An individual traveling on University business should neither gain nor lose personal funds as a result of that travel."
  • "Employee reimbursements must be University business-related and clearly indicate prudent use of public funds."
  • "In general, the government is more restrictive than the University regarding the use of funds for travel. Likewise, academic and administrative units may have limited resources, and therefore find it necessary to place more stringent controls on allowable expenses

Before Traveling

Non-reimbursable expenses from U-Policy web page.
Some examples of unallowable expenses include (check web site for full list):

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Check cashing charges
  • Movies, in flight/room
  • Telephone calls (unless University business related)
  • Snacks - Department will reimburse for meals
  • Hotel or vehicle “no show” charges
  • Spouse or guest travel (we only cover approved team members)
  • Personal travel for side trips
  • Parking tickets or traffic violation tickets

Meals will need to be discussed with faculty advisor for project and department staff as what is available for reimbursement.

Car and/or Van Rental Reservations and Preferred Service Providers:  Cars and/or vans have been rented through U of M Fleet Services. See Lisa Schouviller for assisting with reservations. National Car is the preferred rental agency of the University of Minnesota. Please see Policies Page. Rental of up to a mid-sized car is an allowable expense. Exceptions may be made if there are three or more employees traveling together, if the traveler is transporting sizeable equipment, or if there are other valid business needs. The exception must be documented on the traveler’s expense report. Any additional transportation needed is to be approved by faculty advisor for project.

Please make a special note, the following insurances are covered by the U Contract. If you decide to purchase any other "optional" insurance by National, it will be a personal expense.

  • Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) protection for damage to the vehicle included on contract & promotional rates for all domestic rentals and some international locations
  • Liability Insurance Coverage included on both contract and promotional rates ($100,000 each person, $300,000 each accident, and $25,000 property damage) for all domestic rentals and some international locations

If the listed drivers with National are under 25 years of age, please get a letter from Lisa Schouviller in the AEM office to present to National Car upon renting. If you do not get this letter, you will either not be able to drive or pay extra for the rental which is not reimbursable.

Costs for travel should be appropriate and with budget submitted to faculty advisor and AEM accounting staff.

Travel Reimbursement Form

Please complete Travel Reimbursement Form and attach ALL receipts no later than TEN days upon the return from your trip to Lisa Schouviller in the AEM Office, 107 Akerman Hall. This should include itemized receipts for all expenditures. Follow the University’s guidelines for expenditure limits. For meal receipts please date each one and mark what meal each receipt is for.

  • Form MUST be COMPLETELY filled out
  • Address especially important as this is where the check will go
  • Ignore budget section
  • Team lead's name and the team name for the project
  • Attach the receipts for approved expenses
  • Attached W-9 form if needed. W-9 required for all reimbursements over $99.99


Your faculty team advisor may suggest that you seek gift donations from outside companies or organizations as a source of support for your competition travel or project supplies. University of Minnesota policy and procedures for accepting gifts and managing expenses against these funds will need to be followed. If a company or organization wants to give an unrestricted gift for the team to use for supplies or travel to a competition and wants to receive a tax letter for the donation, this will need be processed through the AEM Department. The AEM Department will work with the University of Minnesota Foundation on the gift donation and setup a University financial chart string. The following documentation will need to be included with each gift:

  1. A check made payable to the University of Minnesota Foundation
  2. A gift donation letter that states the purpose of the gift, i.e. unrestricted gift for to be used for supplies and travel of Rocket team in national competition in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  3. The letter and check should be sent to:

Attention: Donna Rosenthal
Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics 
107 Aker Hall
110 Union Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Students should make sure they thank the donor and keep the donor updated on their student team project.

Registered Student Organizations & Campus Life Program

Registered Student Organizations (RSO) and/or Campus Life Program (CLP) need to follow Student Union and Activities Student Groups policy and guidelines. This includes groups like AIAA and the Solar Car.

It is recommended as a best practice that officers of student groups in this category attend the financial and other training sessions that they offer. If there are still any questions or need for further clarification, students should make an appointment to meet with the appropriate Student Union and Activities staff for further review.

RSOs and CLPs must comply with all University financial policies and procedures.

Some relevant procedures:

Funding received from Student Services Fees must following the Student Services Fees Committee guidelines that are provide each year and the budget the RSO group submitted. See Student Service Fees Policies.