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A Laboratory/Design Based, Problem Solving Capstone Helps Engineering Technologists Hit The Job Market!

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Capstone and Senior Design in Engineering Technology: Part II

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.44.1 - 15.44.6



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Paper Authors


John Marshall University of Southern Maine

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John Marshall received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and is the Internship Coordinator for the Department at the University of Southern Maine. His areas of specialization include Power and Energy Processing, Applied Process Control Engineering, Applied Automation Engineering, Fluid Power, and Facility Planning.

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

A Laboratory/Design Based, Problem Solving Capstone Helps Engineering Technologists Hit the Job Market!


The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into the “laboratory/design based problem solving learning environment” that has been developed with financial and technical assistance from local industries. The discussion will also identify how the “need” for this type of project based curriculum became obvious. Four prerequisite courses are briefly described before focusing on the project based capstone course. These four courses provide the students with the technical skill sets needed to succeed in the senior level capstone course. Accomplishments and outcomes from the student perspective, the University perspective, and the industry perspective will also be shared.

Our advancing world of computer integration, process control, industrial automation, and telecommunications requires technical problem solvers and knowledgeable decision makers. “The activities of problem solving and decision making are closely intertwined”,1 and both skills can effectively be learned through project based capstone courses. Industrial partnering has enabled the development of a state-of-the-art power and automation curriculum and project based problem solving learning environment for our students and also for the communities beyond campus.

The laboratory/design based problem solving learning environment is organized into clusters. These clusters are equipped with components such as computers, printers, programmable logic controllers, sensors, pneumatic valves and actuators, mechanisms, rotary index tables, hydraulic cylinders, electric motors, and vibratory feeder bowls. In the senior capstone course, participants are grouped into teams that design and solve realistic industrial problems such as parts sorting, quality control, clamp and work circuits, material handling, and component assembly.

Students find this capstone level course both challenging and rewarding as they are required to integrate subject matter learned from many courses throughout their entire degree program. This highly developed advanced course integrates competences mastered in other courses such as computer-assisted design, spreadsheet and database utilization, material processing, computer programming, and ergonomics. Students actually use every lab in the building (CAD lab, welding lab, etc.) but the focal point is the complex yet inviting industrial problem solving lab. This unique design based senior course continually challenges the student to advance, grow, internalize and demonstrate the new knowledge and techniques they are learning.

Problem Solving Learning Environment

The freshmen level courses that utilize the problem solving learning environment are electricity/electronics and mechanical power conversions. The first course focuses on electrical components and concepts. Students learn how to mathematically calculate

Marshall, J. (2010, June), A Laboratory/Design Based, Problem Solving Capstone Helps Engineering Technologists Hit The Job Market! Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16592

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