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A Case Study in Capstone Organization for Continuous Design/Build Projects

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.20.1 - 25.20.22



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Paper Authors


Robb E. Larson Montana State University

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Robb Larson is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, in the College of Engineering at Montana State University. He has been with the department since 1993 and teaches the interdisciplinary ME/MET capstone course, as well as courses in alternative/renewable energy, instrumentation, and computer applications.

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David A. Miller Montana State University

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David A Miller is Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont.

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A Case Study in Capstone Organization for Continuous Design/Build Projects: Building a Project Brain Trust, and the Experiences of Senior Engineering Students who Joined “Competition” Projects Already In-ProgressThe year-long Capstone Design course sequence at State University is a key element of both theMechanical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology programs. These twoprograms share a common Capstone course. Given proper pre-requisite coursework, students canenter the Capstone sequence either in the fall or spring, and project involvement then continuesfor two consecutive terms. Project assignments are made early in the first course of the sequence,when each Capstone student reviews the project list provided by the instructor and submits apetition for inclusion on a project which peaks his/her interest. Teams are assigned - typicallyinterdisciplinary ME/MET, consisting of 3-6 members - and the student group engages in theirproject. The first semester course in each program focuses on engineering design and projectplanning, while during the second semester a high-resolution prototype is fabricated and tested.In general this sequence of capstone events functions independently of the project startupsemester: However, some projects such as ‘Competition’ projects such as Formula SAE or theASME HPV project, involve unique requirements and schedules. These are projects thatcontinue year after year. They offer opportunities to build upon the work of prior teams, and holdexpectations of continuous improvement where past problems should not be repeated. Theaddition of a culminating competition event – usually scheduled near the end of spring term –serves as a desirable performance incentive for participants. And a springtime competition eventdate aligns fairly well with the course schedule of a fall-start two-semester Capstone project.However, for spring-start design project teams the competition project schedule is problematic:In general, there is not sufficient time for a spring-start group to design and then fabrication ofthe competition article. Despite this scheduling issue, our programs desired that a means toengage spring-start Capstone students in these unique projects should be pursued due to verystrong student interest. Such a plan was developed and implemented, and is the subject of thiscase study.Students joining projects in-progress have a substantially different experience than thoseinvolved from the start. For continuously operating projects, this knowledge bridge providescontinuity and superior competition results. But are these advantages reaped at the expense of theindividual student experience, or can certain advantages to the student be identified? Can thisexperience help a student navigate similar occurrences in their subsequent career? Shouldcapstone students always design first and prototype later, or can anything be gained if these stepsare reversed? This paper describes the methodology developed to permit students to join in-progress Capstone groups, and the practical considerations involved. Positive and negativeaspects of this scenario - including survey results from student participants and alumni - areexamined. Finally, methodologies and recommendations for information exchange and focusarea knowledge handoff are discussed.

Larson, R. E., & Miller, D. A. (2012, June), A Case Study in Capstone Organization for Continuous Design/Build Projects Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20780

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