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An Innovative Multidisciplinary Capstone Design Course Sequence

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Capstone Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.201.1 - 8.201.8



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Paper Authors

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Jeff Will

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Doug Tougaw

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


An Innovative Multidisciplinary Capstone Design Course Sequence

DOUGLAS TOUGAW and Jeffrey D. Will

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Valparaiso University

Abstract: The departments of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Valparaiso University have recently combined their two capstone design course sequences into a single, multidisciplinary capstone experience for all senior students in the two departments. This paper outlines the structure of the courses that resulted and describes the benefits and challenges that resulted.

The two departments decided to merge their senior design classes in 1999 based on feedback from several stakeholders. Among these were alumni who reported that they work in a very multidisciplinary environment and need to understand how to work with other engineering disciplines. A pilot study was run during the 2000-2001 academic year, and all seniors in the past two years have completed the integrated program.

The primary result of this curriculum change has been a significant increase in the quality of projects that students complete. The number of commercially sponsored projects has increased substantially since the multidisciplinary sequence was introduced, and students in the course have received national recognition for the quality of their work. Additional benefits have included closer working relationships among faculty and students in the two departments and improved assessment results for multidisciplinary teamwork skills.

Particular aspects of the course sequence such as writing design requirements, virtual prototyping, physical prototyping, testing, and reporting are described in detail. Special consideration is given to the challenges of grading individual members of a team project.

1. Introduction

Two of the most important skills engineering educators can impart to their students are the ability to design a product or system and the ability to work effectively in teams1-3. In particular, since the introduction of Engineering Criteria 2000 by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology4, multidisciplinary teamwork has been an active area of curriculum development at many universities5-10. At Valparaiso University, the departments of Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) have combined these goals together into a multidisciplinary senior design course sequence that introduces students to the fundamentals of teamwork and the design process “Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Will, J., & Tougaw, D. (2003, June), An Innovative Multidisciplinary Capstone Design Course Sequence Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12579

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