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An Innovative Method Providing An Alternative To Capstone Courses Using Experiential Learning

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Capstone and Senior Design in Engineering Technology: Part II

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.158.1 - 15.158.11



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Paper Authors


William Leonard Rochester Institute of Technology

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The program chair of the Mechanical Engineering Technology program and a faculty member in the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology Department at RIT, Professor Leonard specializes in graduate and undergraduate courses in concept design and product innovation. Professor Leonars BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Multidisciplinary Studies are from RIT.

Prior to joining RIT Professor Leonard spent 25 years in industry in tool engineering, R&D and advanced product development. He also operates a product development consulting company and is the holder of several patents.

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Robert Merrill Roch Inst of Tech

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Robert Merrill is a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at RIT. He has taught at RIT for 38 years and served as the Department Chair for the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department for 4 years and as the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program Chair at RIT for 10 years. He worked in industry for 4 years prior to joining RIT and has been consultant to area industry for over 30 years. Professor Merrill earned a BSME from Clarkson and a MSME from Northeastern.

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Elizabeth Dell Rochester Institute of Technology

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Elizabeth Dell is an Assistant Professor of Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She is the Program Chair for Undeclared Engineering Technology. Dell received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University and has an MS in Macromolecular Science & Engineering from the University of Michigan. She has worked in the automotive industry in the development of plastic products from fuel system components to interior trim.

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



The Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has implemented an alternative to the capstone project technique commonly used to satisfy the ABET Criterion 5 Curriculum section d. (Capstone or other integrating experiences must draw together diverse elements of the curriculum and develop student competence in focusing both technical and non-technical skills in solving problems.)1

A majority of Engineering Technology and Engineering Science programs rely upon a capstone project for providing an integrating experience which, by their very nature, are burdensome to the program resources and invariably suffer many disadvantages in their operation. Due to the size and complexity of capstone projects, the objective in the Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) program at RIT has been to provide an alternative to the current capstone technique that will provide a superior integrating experience through a series of connected experiential projects integrated into the core classes.

This paper will present a method, based on a scheme for experiential learning and innovation, that is a viable and robust alternative to the capstone technique which is easier to implement, will reduce the burden to the program, and provides a more complete integrating experience to the student while strengthening the MET program here at RIT.


The MET Program at RIT has met the ABET Criterion 5 requirement (Integrating Experience) by demonstrating a strong Co-op program supporting over 250 companies with every student requiring five quarters (50 weeks total) of industrial experience or equivalent for graduation. However, in the spirit of continuous improvement, an enhanced integrating experience is being sought. An overwhelming majority (8 out of 10) of Colleges have committed to a traditional- style Capstone Project in order to meet Criterion 5. In investigating the logistics and implementation scheme of a Capstone Project, it became apparent that a substantial burden is placed upon the faculty and staff with a projected increased workload of approximately 10% to 20%. Using a Product Design approach to problem solving a method was identified that ‘met the customer’s needs’. The MET program is labeling this as the ‘Backbone Concept’ where a series of highly-integrated projects are completed through the first to the senior year of a student’s experience that generates an increasing level of mastery to problem solving.

MET Definition of the ‘Integrating Experience’

ABET requires engineering technology programs to provide students with a capstone or other integrating experiences.

Leonard, W., & Merrill, R., & Dell, E. (2010, June), An Innovative Method Providing An Alternative To Capstone Courses Using Experiential Learning Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16760

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