Asee peer logo

2005 National Survey Of Engineering Capstone Design Courses

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Capstone Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.4.1 - 11.4.21



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Susannah Howe Smith College

visit author page

Susannah Howe is the Design Clinic Director in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College. She coordinates and teaches the capstone engineering design course and serves as co-faculty advisor for entrepreneurial activity at Smith. Her interests include innovations in engineering design education, entrepreneurship education across disciplines at the undergraduate level, and durability and structural performance of cementitious and natural building materials.

visit author page


Jessica Wilbarger Smith College

visit author page

Jessica Wilbarger is an engineering student at Smith College. Her research experiences include surveying innovations in capstone design education, modeling systems in biological applications, and analyzing genetic drift in insects. She hopes to pursue a career in sustainable and renewable energy in developing nations.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

2005 National Survey of Engineering Capstone Design Courses


This work details a survey of engineering capstone design courses nationwide conducted in 2005. The survey is a follow-up to one conducted in 1994 by Todd et al.1, reprising the questions of its predecessor plus requesting additional information. The 2005 survey was implemented online, with requests sent via email to representatives of all ABET-accredited engineering programs (1724 programs at 350 institutions, as of 2004). The online survey yielded a strong response, with 444 programs from 232 institutions submitting responses. This corresponds to a 26% response rate from engineering programs and a 66% response rate from institutions. The results of this survey, with a focus on developments in the past ten years, are presented graphically and discussed. Particular focus areas include course logistics, faculty involvement, project coordination, funding details, and industry sponsorship. The results serve as a snapshot of current practices in engineering capstone design education as well as an indication of trends over the past decade.

1. Introduction

Capstone design courses offer engineering students a culminating design experience on an applied engineering project. With a longstanding history reinforced by support from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), these courses have become common in engineering departments across the United States. The composition of capstone courses, however, varies widely. In 1994, Todd et al.1 conducted a survey of engineering departments throughout North America to capture educational and logistical practices in capstone design courses at the time. Their results2,3 provided a wealth of information about their respondents' capstone courses plus comments about plans for future modifications.

Since then, a number of other surveys regarding one or more aspects of capstone design have been conducted, though none were intentional successors to the 1994 survey. Indeed, the intervening surveys have focused on specific areas such as assessment in capstone courses4, or been limited to particular disciplines5. This 2005 follow-up survey was motivated by a desire to understand true current practices and identify what, if anything, has changed in the past ten years. Additionally, we hoped to use the results to inform the capstone course at our own institution plus share the data with others so they could do likewise.

2. Survey Methods and Respondents

The purpose of the survey was not only to discern trends developing since 1994, but also to acquire a general picture of the state of capstone engineering today. To this end, we developed a draft survey in the fall of 2004 that combined most of the questions from its 1994 predecessor1, with some new questions regarding course participant feedback, faculty obligations, and project funding. We sent the draft to several colleagues in capstone education for feedback and incorporated many of their suggestions for additional or reworded questions.

Howe, S., & Wilbarger, J. (2006, June), 2005 National Survey Of Engineering Capstone Design Courses Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1023

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015