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A Pilot for Multidisciplinary Capstone Design Incorporating a Systems Engineering Framework

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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

Design Across Disciplines

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.88.1 - 25.88.23

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Paper Authors


Keith G. Sheppard Stevens Institute of Technology

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Keith Sheppard is a professor of materials engineering and Associate Dean of Engineering & Science at Stevens Institute of Technology. He earned the B.Sc. from the University of Leeds, England, and Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, England, both in metallurgy. As Associate Dean, Sheppard is primarily responsible for undergraduate programs.

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John Nastasi Stevens Institute of Technology

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John Nastasi is a Licensed Architect and Founding Director of the Graduate Program in Product-architecture and Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. An alumnus of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design
and recipient of Harvard’s prestigious Rice Prize for the Integration of Architecture and Engineering, Nastasi is currently directing interdisciplinary research in sustainable engineering for both the Department
of Defense and Department of Energy.

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Eirik Hole Stevens Institute of Technology

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Eirik Hole has since 2004 held the position of lecturer in systems engineering and engineering management in the School of Systems & Enterprise at Stevens Institute of Technology. Prior to this, he held systems engineering positions in a number of companies, primarily in the automotive and aerospace fields, in Norway and Germany. He obtained a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, in 1995.

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A Pilot for Multidisciplinary Capstone Design incorporating a Systems  Engineering Framework  In this paper we discuss a pilot project to develop an approach to multidisciplinary capstone design that incorporates a systems engineering (SE) framework which can be a model for broad implementation.  It is a reflection of the growing demand for engineers educated to recognize the overarching significance of systems engineering approaches for the development of large‐scale and complex systems, and to have attained some foundational SE competencies before entering the workforce.  The specific project was sponsored by the Department of Defense and involved working with various stakeholders, within and associated with the Department of Defense, to address a need for an expeditionary housing system for the military, with a major focus on integrated alternate energy sources and associated micro‐grid. This has application to both forward operational units and for disaster relief missions.  The SE framework provided a series of workshops through the course of the capstone project to teach SE concepts in what approximates to a just‐in‐time mode in an interdisciplinary capstone of significant scope, working with external stakeholders and mentors. The goals that were addressed in the project were connected directly to primary SE Competency Areas of DoD (SPRDE‐SE/PSE).  Assessment was applied locally at the authors’ institution and via an external assessor to other institutions engaged in their own pilot versions of incorporating SE into the capstone.  The initial phase of implementation revealed both some immediate benefits of introducing systems engineering into the capstone for a major multi‐disciplinary project, but also the challenges.  Some of the latter were associated with it being a multi‐disciplinary project rather than specifically due to addressing the SE goals. In this regard student focus and assessment had been too discipline‐centered in the initial phase and needed transitioning so that the systems project was accepted by all stakeholders as the focus and assessment base while still meeting disciplinary engineering capstone educational outcomes. The timeline to bring the project and students up to speed is longer than for a traditional capstone, including multi‐disciplinary ones, as the SE foundation has to be established.  First in terms of SE knowledge acquisition, second for socialization to and the buy in needed from the students to work on the project in a meaningful systems engineering mode.  In a second phase of the project a new project management model was implemented to provide authentic systems level and functional modes. Group dynamics were further addressed. Recognizing that system success needs to be reflected in “rewards” – i.e. you get what you measure, a better framework to engage discipline capstone advisors was included as well as closer coupling of disciplinary program assessment (rewards) with systems‐level assessment.  The results and assessments are discussed.  Keywords: systems, design, multidisciplinary  

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