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A Capstone Design Approach In Civil Engineering

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

DEED Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.12.1 - 9.12.10

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Paper Authors

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Valerie Vance

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Michael Cornachione

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Harriet Cornachione

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

Session 1725

A Capstone Design Approach in Civil Engineering Harriet S. Cornachione, Michael A. Cornachione, and Valerie. J. Vance Oregon Institute of Technology


Assessing student outcomes from the civil engineering program at Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) identified several areas of concern. Ineffective team skills, limited multi-disciplinary design experience and inadequate integration of technical communications with the engineering curriculum were specifically targeted for improvement. To strengthen student outcomes in these areas, technical communications faculty and civil engineering faculty at OIT developed a new senior project curriculum.

Senior civil engineering students must now complete a three-term, full academic year, senior project sequence that integrates engineering design with communication skill development. The class functions as a civil engineering consulting firm with civil engineering faculty leading design teams in geotechnical engineering, transportation and traffic engineering, environmental engineering, structural engineering and planning. Two communications faculty are also part of the firm and provide in-house expertise in technical communications.

The firm is required to respond to a formal request for proposal (RFP), develop a conceptual plan within the proposal, and prepare and present a professional proposal to secure the project. The RFP identifies a real project within the local community and is multi-disciplinary in nature. Upon proposal acceptance, specific design teams are formed in which students complete the project design as specified in the firm’s proposal. Effective communication both intra-team and inter-team is essential to ensure a professional cohesive design by the firm. Final designs are submitted in written reports, including all plans and specifications, and presented orally to a diverse audience of professionals, peers and faculty. Technical communications faculty assist students in preparing proposals, written reports and presentations, and guide the process of internal documentation procedures such as daily logs and weekly progress reports. Workshops on professional ethics, group dynamics and peer reviews are also incorporated in the class. Local professionals and other faculty participate as clients, consultants and experts.

Surveys given to students at the end of the project reflect a moderate improvement in student outcomes based on this class. Students appear reluctant to leave the organized structure of the classroom for the open ended problems presented by the design projects. Alumni, however, who have completed the sequence, have given strong endorsements. Local professionals and Industrial Advisory Committee members have expressed satisfaction with the approach and objectives of the class.

Vance, V., & Cornachione, M., & Cornachione, H. (2004, June), A Capstone Design Approach In Civil Engineering Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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