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A Capstone Engineering Modeling Course for Developing Creative Problem-Solving

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Megan Reissman University of Dayton

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Dr. Reissman studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University (BS) and Northwestern University (PhD). She currently teaches engineering design, analysis, and experimentation courses in the mechanical engineering department of University of Dayton. She specializes in biomechanics and robotic systems.

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Allison L. Kinney University of Dayton Orcid 16x16

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Allison L. Kinney is an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Dayton. She received her BS in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University in 2005 and her MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Her interests include biomechanics of human movement, musculoskeletal modeling and simulation, and engineering education.

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Kevin Patrick Hallinan University of Dayton

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Dr. Hallinan is a Professor and former Chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Dayton. As Chair in 2008, he established a Master’s Program in Renewable in Clean Energy, which now has 55 students from 20 nations. His research interests, which have led to over 105 peer-reviewed papers and over $4M in research funding, have been diverse, beginning with satellite thermal management, leading to conduct of an experiment aboard a Space Shuttle, to now a focus on building energy informatics. He is the founding Director of the newly formed Energy Informatics Center at UD. He also is co-founder of a start-up company, Dropoly ( and serves in the community as Co-Chair for the Executive Advisory Committee to Dayton Regional Green. Hallinan has been received numerous awards for teaching (UD Alumni Award in Teaching, 1998, Student Government Association Outstanding Faculty Award, 2008, Pi Tau Sigma, 2002&2011, Epsilon Delta Tau Engineering Fraternity, 1993, 2003, 2008, 2010, Phi Sigma Rho, 2011) and service (Marianist Service Award, 2004, and Montgomery County Exemplary Service Award, 2013).

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Over the past twenty years, nearly all job growth in the United States has emerged from new companies and organizations with assumedly innovative products, services, and practices. Yet, the nurturing of student creative thinking through truly open-ended problem solving is infrequent in engineering education. Engineering design projects most often come with constraints and requirements that often negate opportunities for creative growth. In response, over the past six years at the University of Dayton, a capstone engineering modeling course has been developed and evolved. Initially this course focused on asking students to develop computational solutions to well-specified modeling problems ideally building upon on previously taken fundamental mechanical engineering courses. However, it was clear very early that students’ abilities to develop models for the projects assigned to which computational tools could be applied was noticeably weak. Thus the course emphasis shifted to highly open-ended modeling efforts. What has emerged over time is a course based upon projects involving two person student teams driven by very general needs and which integrate foundational mechanical engineering subject areas. The projects are designed to only provide the general problem space for unique student innovations. With their concepts developed, they then proceed to ‘create’ their engineering model. This process of defining the problem, breaking down their problem to manageable parts, envisioning assumptions to make their models tractable, and then applying foundational engineering processes and knowledge all provide immense challenge to students. In all stages of the innovation and modeling process, the students are expected demonstrate progress, before given individualized suggestions for improvement from their instructors. Recent assessment has documented the following results. Upon completion of the course students acknowledge improvement in creativity, problem identification, an ability to breakdown real problems, and an ability to model. They also acknowledge improved confidence in their foundational knowledgeable and heightened excitement about a career which enables them to work creatively as engineers.

Reissman, M., & Kinney, A. L., & Hallinan, K. P. (2017, June), A Capstone Engineering Modeling Course for Developing Creative Problem-Solving Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27441

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