June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Design in Engineering Education
14.169.1 - 14.169.12
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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