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Assessing the Effect of Co-Op Sequence on Capstone Design Performance

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Capstone Design III

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.242.1 - 22.242.17



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Paper Authors


Bridget M. Smyser Northeastern University

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Assistant Academic Specialist in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department

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Gregory J. Kowalski Northeastern University

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Assessing the effect of co-op sequence on Capstone Design performanceIn the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department at our university, Capstone Design is atwo semester course offered in one of two sequences. In one sequence, the two semesters followeach other directly, with students taking the first semester in late summer, followed immediatelyby the second semester in the fall. In the other sequence, the students take the first semester inearly summer, and then spend 6 months on co-op before returning in the spring to complete thesecond semester of Capstone. Although these two sequences were developed simply toaccommodate student schedules, this fact provides an opportunity to determine whether the lagbetween semesters hinders, aids, or has no effect on whether students generate quality designs.Students who take the consecutive sequence have the advantage of working continually on theirdesign problem for 2 terms, allowing them to keep momentum going. However, it is possible thatthe students who interrupt their sequence with co-op are able to use that time to continueindependent learning, even if they are not actively working on the problem. Both cohorts spendthe same total amount of time on co-op. However, the group with the interrupted sequence canapply the valuable skills in project management and other real-world work skills that they learnin Capstone I to their co-op, reinforcing their skills in a timely manner. This could provide thegroups in the interrupted sequence with an organizational advantage upon their return. This studyaims to determine whether there is a distinct difference in project quality between the twocohorts. Several measures of project quality will be used to study the two groups. Final coursegrades for each group will be an initial indicator of any distinction. Another measure is whetheror not the groups have reached the prototyping stage at a point two weeks from the end of thecourse. This can be determined from the executive summaries the groups submit at that point.The number of patent disclosures and provisional patents awarded per term will indicate both thequality of the project and the performance of the groups, as groups that file patents typically arefurther along in their project. Finally, the two cohorts will be compared based on feedback fromthe alumni jury members who judge the final projects. Preliminary results indicate that only oneof the nonconsecutive sequences had fewer than 50% of the groups reach the prototype stage 2weeks before the end of term. In addition, the poorest performing group was one in which thestudents took the two terms consecutively. Although further analysis is required, the studentswho interrupt their two semesters of Capstone with a co-op seem to benefit from the experienceand return with additional skills and ideas that they can then apply to their Capstone designproject.

Smyser, B. M., & Kowalski, G. J. (2011, June), Assessing the Effect of Co-Op Sequence on Capstone Design Performance Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17523

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