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Aligning Goals Of Capstone Design, Service Learning, And Adapted Physical Activity

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Capstone Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.169.1 - 14.169.12

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Paper Authors


James Widmann California Polytechnic State University

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Jim Widmann is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic
State University, San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. in 1994 from Stanford University.
Currently he teaches mechanics and design courses. He conducts research in the areas of design optimization, machine design, fluid power control and engineering education.

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Lynne Slivovsky California Polytechnic State University

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Lynne Slivovsky received her B.S. in Computer and Electrical Engineering and her M.S. and
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 1992, 1993, and 2001, respectively.
She worked with the Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS) Program from 2001 to
2003. In Fall 2003, she started a tenure-track assistant professor position in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She received a Frontiers In Education New Faculty Fellow Award in 2003. In 2006, she was named the Hood Professor of Electrical Engineering. Her research is in the areas of haptics, human computer interaction, computer vision, and engineering education. In her free time, she enjoys mountaineering, kayaking, and photography.

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Brian Self California Polytechnic State University

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Brian Self has been an Associate Professor at Cal Poly for the last three years. Before that, he taught at the Air Force Academy for seven years. He is the ASEE Campus Rep and the Zone IV
Chair. Besides his pedagogical research, Dr Self is actively involved in aerospace physiology and biomechanics research. He has worked extensively to involve undergraduates in his research, taking students to present at national and international conferences. By involving students in solving ill-defined projects and problems that don’t have a “correct answer”, Dr Self hopes to further advance their intellectual curiosity and problem solving skills.

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J. Kevin Taylor California Polytechnic State University

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J. Kevin Taylor is an Associate Professor in Kinesiology at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. from the College of Education at the University of South Carolina and taught at the University of Northern Colorado for six years before coming to Cal Poly. Dr. Taylor trains physical education teachers and teaches Adapted Physical Activity. His scholarly interests are in the application of science and technology to training physical education teachers, and the design of adapted play equipment to promote inclusion within adapted physical activity.

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

Aligning Goals of Capstone Design, Service Learning and Adapted Physical Activity


Given that senior capstone design courses are critical elements in achieving important undergraduate engineering education outcomes and that universities are increasingly emphasizing a humanitarian component in institutional-level outcomes, we posit service learning pedagogy is well suited to accomplish both. In this paper, we describe the integration of service learning projects into existing senior level mechanical, computer and multidisciplinary senior design classes. These projects focus on the design, building and testing of adapted physical activity devices to allow greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in recreational activities. Adaptive physical activity projects are well-aligned with the goals of service learning and provide rich open-ended design experiences for students. This paper provides a framework for aligning capstone and service learning outcomes.


Service-learning occurs when “Students engage in community service activities with intentional academic and learning goals and opportunities for reflection that connect to their academic discipline” (Cress et al, 2005)1. Reflection is an integral part of learning and helps to develop critical thinking skills (Jacoby, 1996; Tsang, 2000; Tsang, 2002)2,3,4. The development of these critical thinking skills enables engineering undergraduates to develop a broader appreciation of and ability to deal with the constraints facing the engineering profession and the ever changing world. Global issues have been proposed as a means to precipitate change in engineering curricula (Vanasupa et al., 2006)5. Skills for well-rounded engineers, one could argue citizens here, have seen an increased focus recently from ABET criteria (ABET, 2000)6 to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE, 2004).

Capstone Course Structures

This paper focuses on three capstone design classes at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) where service-based projects that involve the design, construction and testing of adaptive devices to allow greater access to recreational activities for persons with disabilities are completed by teams of engineering undergraduates. The three courses are Capstone design classes in Computer Engineering (approx 60 students and 12 projects/year), Mechanical Engineering (approx 200 students and 65 projects/year) and an Interdisciplinary class (approx 30 students and 6 projects/year) which is open to students in any of the twelve engineering disciplines at Cal poly. Typically about 50% of all projects are sponsored by industrial partners while 25% have campus sponsors including research and student club activities and 14% are service related7.

The three courses all contain the major elements of industrial-based capstone design classes. The Computer Engineering class lasts two quarters while the Mechanical Engineering class has projects that last two or three quarters depending on scope. The interdisciplinary class lasts three quarters. All projects have external sponsors who bring “real” world problems to the classes for

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