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A Pre Capstone Course Designed To Improve Student Performance On Open Ended Design Projects

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Design in the ECE Curriculum

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.93.1 - 12.93.14



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Paper Authors

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Christine Co Oklahoma State University

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Bear Turner Oklahoma State University

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Alan Cheville Oklahoma State University

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

A pre-Capstone Course Designed to Improve Performance on Open-Ended Design Projects Introduction

Many engineering programs use capstone courses to expose students to open-ended design projects and to help achieve ABET outcomes. While single capstone courses are the most common, two course sequences are also used 1. The first course of two capstone sequences typically prepares students for open-ended team projects in the second course. This paper describes an easily adaptable model for a “pre-capstone” course that prepares students for a team-based capstone experience in electrical engineering. The course is broadly adaptable since it has many similarities with the structure, outcomes, and grading methods of other capstone courses nationwide1.

Outcomes for the pre-capstone course were chosen based on observed deficiencies in student performance in solving open ended projects as part of a team in the second capstone course. The course was structured on a cognitive apprentice model. In the cognitive apprentice model, experts model behaviors or skills for novices who then practice the skills on their own. Continuous feedback is provided on student performance. Based on design errors commonly made by student teams in open-ended design projects, the four outcomes of the pre-capstone course are to: 1) Give students training, experience, and feedback from working on teams. This is mandated by ABET and most capstone programs use team-based design projects 1 2) Give student specific design and fabrication skills. In other words the course attempts to make each student an expert in a needed skill. There are several reasons for choosing this outcome that will be explained later. 3) Explicitly teach time and resource management. These are taught separately using two techniques explained in the next section. 4) Teach a “block diagram” approach to design. The block diagram is chosen as a representative way of organizing projects and making sure that each team member has specific roles. During the pre-capstone course the four course outcomes are modeled/practiced during three design projects that emphasize different outcomes. Specific teaching techniques and tools used for each outcome with the goal of improving student performance on team-based capstone projects. The outcomes support each other through the cognitive apprentice approach.

The remainder of the paper describes the structure and organization of the pre-capstone course then reports on the teaching techniques used to support the four outcomes. Specifically the course structure is described as a model of the design process in fitting with the cognitive apprentice approach used. Finally, a discussion of the assessment data is presented as well as resources and practice that can guide other capstone programs.

Course Organization

The course was divided into three separate projects that model student learning of design using a cognitive apprenticeship. The first project trains teams in particular skills necessary for design

Co, C., & Turner, B., & Cheville, A. (2007, June), A Pre Capstone Course Designed To Improve Student Performance On Open Ended Design Projects Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1612

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