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An Experiment In Product Innovation And Design In A Mechanical Engineering Capstone Experience

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Capstone Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.175.1 - 7.175.16

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Paper Authors

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Stephen Batill

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An Experiment in Product Innovation and Design in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Experience Stephen M. Batill University of Notre Dame


Product design is inherently a collaborative, multidisciplinary activity that is influenced by numerous issues and it can be accomplished using many, very different approaches. This paper describes a number of pedagogical changes associated with a capstone design class in Mechanical Engineering that is intended to simulate the product development process as it occurs in industry. The changes from earlier offerings of this project-based, team-oriented course involved the type of corporate culture in which the design process took place, the nature of the product and an attempt to develop collaboration between students from engineering, marketing and design. The paper outlines the learning objectives for this course, its implementation and presents a preliminary assessment of the impact of the changes.

I. Introduction and Overview of the Experiment

The capstone design class in the Mechanical Engineering program at Notre Dame has undergone a number of changes in the past few years that have altered the types of projects and the associated technologies invoked by the students. The course is presented as a team-based, product-focused, design-build activity. It is a single semester, three-credit hour, course that is required of all students in the major and it is normally taken during the fourth year, as effectively all students complete their degree in four years. The students are organized into small design- build teams and each team is responsible for the concept definition, design, documentation, prototype fabrication and evaluation of a mechanical system.

The projects are presented in a way that attempts to simulate the engineering design process. The key concept to be emphasized is that of simulating the design process as practiced in industry. Due to limits on time, the student’s experience, financial resources and support facilities, it is often very difficult to engage students in projects that encompass all the important aspects of the product development process in the same detail that they will experience in industry. Though some programs have been able to successfully develop capstone design experiences that involve a direct industry interaction, this can be problematic particularly for single semester projects.1,2 There is a trade-off that exists between providing a realistic design environment, often associated with working with industry partners, and achieving the learning objectives set forth for a particular academic program.

Other programs have developed unique learning experiences that are designed to provide realistic capstone projects3-4 that also use the concept of simulation. In those cases where programs attempt to integrate other disciplines or concerns in the design process simulations, the manner in which those disciplines are included depends upon many factors including the faculty experiences, time, facilities and financial resources. It is well recognized that the engineering

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Batill, S. (2002, June), An Experiment In Product Innovation And Design In A Mechanical Engineering Capstone Experience Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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