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An Algorithm For Project Assignment In Capstone Design

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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

Capstone Design III

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.196.1 - 12.196.12



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Paper Authors

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Theodor Freiheit University of Calgary

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Julian Wood University of Calgary

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

An Algorithm for Project Assignment in Capstone Design


This paper presents an algorithm to automate the assignment of students to project teams. Students bid on a limited set of choices of the projects being offered. The algorithm then attempts to place students into projects such that the overall project assignment solution provides the highest ‘satisfaction’. Satisfaction is defined by a scoring methodology for assigning students to their preferred project. The algorithm allows pre-assignment of students to a particular project, closes projects after they have been sufficiently subscribed, provides a bumping routine to move students around in finding a best solution, and eliminates ‘unpopular’ projects. It has successfully been tested in assigning students to project teams, reducing the time required to one quarter that taken using a similar manual system.


Project based learning in design education is an effective method for students “to learn design by experiencing design as active participants” in the context of the “complex processes of inquiry and learning that designers perform in a systems context,…, often working collaboratively on teams….”1 Team formation for project-based learning can present administrative difficulties for design educators, however, especially in large classes. Projects used in capstone design courses are usually established by one of two methods: projects suggested by the enrolled students and then vetted by the instructor, and projects sponsored by members of the university, industry, or non-profit communities. When projects are sponsored by outside organizations, the department and course instructors have a stake in facilitating a positive outcome for all parties.2 Therefore, it is desirable to provide a design environment for each project that maximizes the potential educational and curricular goals for the students and the university, and the problem solution, recruitment needs, and/or community support goals of the outside sponsors.

Anecdotally, it has been found that when projects match a student’s interests, whether it is in a particular discipline or the type of project, there is a better project outcome. Students that identify with the project objectives and believe in their team’s collective potential will achieve high quality results.3 Moreover, students want relevance and experiences that enable them to be successful practicing engineers. Todd & Magleby comment that “students enjoy learning more if their learning is focused on things that they choose” and that if they “have some choice in the project they work on they may have greater motivation than if they are assigned arbitrarily”.2 This is frequently one factor contributing to the organization of capstone design courses around student-proposed projects.

Many departments want to broaden their student experience to include real engineering problems sponsored by outside entities4. This requires student teams to be assigned to these projects either as individuals or through self-formed teams. However, when self-formed student teams do not

Freiheit, T., & Wood, J. (2007, June), An Algorithm For Project Assignment In Capstone Design Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1909

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