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Assembling a Successful Industry-sponsored Senior Capstone Program: Lessons Learned from a Startup Effort at a Liberal Arts University

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

College Industry Partnerships Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

College Industry Partnerships

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Paper Authors


Lori M Houghtalen Abilene Christian University

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Lori Houghtalen is an Assistant Professor of Engineering and Physics at Abilene Christian University. She is Co-Director for Senior Clinic, the capstone senior design course, and teaches courses in the engineering and physics curriculum. Dr. Houghtalen has won awards from the National Science Foundation, Georgia Tech, the ARCS Foundation, and the Association of European Operational Research Societies. She holds degrees from the University of Tennessee and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Timothy Kennedy P.E. Abilene Christian University Orcid 16x16

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Dr.Timothy J. Kennedy, P.E. is the Executive Director of Engineering and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Physics at Abilene Christian University. His professional experience has focused on water reuse, water and wastewater treatment, additionally, he has an interest in point of use treatment technologies for developing regions, and preparing engineering students to contribute the engineering industry early and often.

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Raymond Earl Smith Abilene Christian University

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Before coming to Abilene Christian University’s Department of Engineering & Physics, Raymond spent 43 years in industry occupying several different positions. Over these years Raymond has held leadership positions in the form of Managing Director of ATEX Manufacturing (an engineered products division of Forgings 24/7), Corporate Engineering Director for Forged Components (division of Forgings 24/7) and Chief Engineer for 30 years at Gulf Coast Machine & Supply Company of Beaumont, Texas. During his time in Beaumont, Raymond was an Adjunct Instructor for the Industrial Engineering Department of Lamar University’s College of Engineering. Teaching for 9 years, Raymond taught Materials Science and Manufacturing Processes. In addition to Lamar University Raymond taught in the Manufacturing Engineering Technology section of Houston Community College’s Central Campus.
Raymond has been a Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE- Life Member) specializing in Machine Design since 1986 and a Life Member of ASM International. He also holds degrees from the University of Houston and Lamar University.

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A medium-sized (around 4000 students) liberal arts university recently began a general engineering program. The program’s first graduating class was in May 2016, and the program obtained initial ABET accreditation in August 2017. Entering the 2015-2016 academic year, program faculty envisioned a capstone design experience that would engage student teams in a year-long, professional level design project sponsored by an industry client. The first two years of the capstone design program have been inarguably successful, and in this paper we identify the keys to our success. The intention for writing this paper is to ensure the success of the program is repeatable, and to assist other programs, especially those residing in small liberal arts universities, in starting or revising their own senior design experience.

While there are a wealth of best practices to consider for senior design, there is not one right approach. Our key factors in building a successful industry-sponsored senior capstone program have been: (1) faculty buy-in and involvement, (2) engaged industry partners, (3) our teaming and project assignment strategy, (4) flexibility to address curricular concerns in program, and (5) building a corporate-like environment within the classroom. Early indicators of success include formal feedback from industry partners, job placement of our program graduates, and feedback from our program’s industrial advisory board.

Houghtalen, L. M., & Kennedy, T., & Smith, R. E. (2018, June), Assembling a Successful Industry-sponsored Senior Capstone Program: Lessons Learned from a Startup Effort at a Liberal Arts University Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29817

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