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Benefits and Challenges of Transitioning to Community Service Multidisciplinary Capstone Projects

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design Projects

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jason Forsyth York College of Pennsylvania

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Jason Forsyth is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at York College of Pennsylvania. He received his PhD from Virginia Tech in May 2015. His major research interests are in wearable and pervasive computing. His work focuses on developing novel prototype tools and techniques for interdisciplinary teams.

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Nicole Hesson York College of Pennsylvania

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Dr. Hesson graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina with a degree in Biology with a minor in Spanish. She started her career in education as a member of the Baltimore City Teaching Residency. She taught at a neighborhood public high school while earning her Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. After three years in Baltimore, she relocated to Washington, D. C. to teach at a public charter middle school. After four years teaching middle school, she decided to pursue her doctorate from Temple University. Her dissertation focused on novice teachers' perceptions of their preparation for teaching at the middle level. Dr. Hesson's current research interests include science education and middle level teacher preparation.

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Significant research has shown the positive benefit of service and community-based learning on student diversity, engagement, and retention. Elements of service-learning have been incorporated across disciplines into traditional classes as well as capstone experiences. While providing significant benefits, challenges also exist in managing relationships with external clients, finding administrative support for these experiences, and engaging students in more open-ended projects.

Recognizing these benefits, new capstone projects have been introduced at our mid-sized mid-Atlantic college over the last two years that focus on community outreach and service. These projects include a community bike rental station, an automated greenhouse for a K-8 school, and assistive technologies for employees with disabilities. These new projects exist along with “traditional” competition-based capstone projects such as Formula FSAE.

Given these two classes of multidisciplinary capstone projects, we examine the experiences of the students, faculty, and community partners during the transition to new service-learning capstone projects. Specifically, we report on interviews conducted: (1) with faculty to understand their administrative and instructional challenges in adding service-based capstone projects, (2) with community-partners and their perceptions of working with the college, and (3) with students to understand the differences in student experience and between traditional competition and new capstone projects. We believe that our experiences can provide a guide for other institutions to manage the transition to service-based capstone projects in their curriculum.

Forsyth, J., & Hesson, N. (2017, June), Benefits and Challenges of Transitioning to Community Service Multidisciplinary Capstone Projects Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27652

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