June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Design in Engineering Education
13.99.1 - 13.99.11
A Semi-Automatic Approach for Project Assignment in a Capstone Course
This paper presents a semi-automatic approach to assigning students to project teams for a year-long, industry-sponsored senior capstone course. Successful assignment requires knowl- edge of at least individual project requirements, student skills, student personalities, and student project preferences. This mix of hard skills, soft skills, and interpersonal impres- sions requires human involvement to produce a high-quality assignment. The importance of faculty input often requires that the assignment process be labor- and time-intensive.
Our approach attempts to reduce the time required to perform this assignment by selectively automating parts of the task ﬂow. An automated search uses a randomized greedy algorithm combined with local optimizations to explore a large space of solutions. Candidate “good” solutions are then presented to capstone faculty. Criteria such as skill set, student capability, and personality compatibility are applied by human evaluators to reduce the candidate solution set. These candidate solutions are then distributed to small groups of faculty to look for improvements using system-generated tables of options.
This approach leverages automation at appropriate stages while keeping the experts—the faculty—involved in the selection process. Our initial implementation has reduced the time needed to select an allocation by about a factor of three over previous manual approaches.
As engineering programs at colleges and universities strive to make pedagogical reinventions, faculty are experimenting with active learning methods to bring authentic engineering expe- riences into the classroom. A prominent feature of many project-based learning approaches is the use of student teams to solve complex problems. One of the signiﬁcant challenges is therefore the assignment of students to teams.
In an experience such as a ﬁnal-year senior engineering capstone, the administrative burden of team formation is often exacerbated by the needs of a more complex, department- or college-wide capstone program. Issues may include larger teams, interdisciplinary needs of projects, satisfying external constituencies, budgeting, and more. These higher stakes make a high-quality team selection process even more important.
In this paper we present a semi-automatic approach for placing students onto project teams. The chief goals of using this approach are to save personnel time and increase the level of satisfaction for all users. The users for our system include students, faculty, and the capstone program.
The Team Formation Problem
The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering requires all students to complete a two-semester,
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