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The senior capstone design project has become a fixture in most undergraduate programs in engineering, and its importance to the technical maturity of engineering students has been firmly established. In the Department Of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boston University, student teams serve real-life customers for whom they must design and build working prototypes. Customers include social-service providers, nonprofit organizations, and public school teachers whose projects encompass adaptive technology for persons with disabilities, classroom aids for teachers, medical devices, promotional aids, and technology-supported art. This paper describes faculty experiences with these "social action" projects and student perceptions of the significance of their work to society. The nontechnical lessons extend beyond the usual ethics, safety, and economics to include expanded social awareness outside the engineering classroom, correct modes of speech and dress for nontechnical audiences, proper etiquette in nonengineering situations, and appropriate behavior toward individuals labeled as challenged or disabled. We discuss the role that these lessons play in shaping our students' professional futures and cite their enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the nonengineering side of the design process.