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Can Agile Methods Enhance Mechatronics Education? Experiences from Basing a Capstone Course on SCRUM

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone Courses

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.279.1 - 25.279.14

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Paper Authors


Martin Edin Grimheden Royal Institute of Technology

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Martin Edin Grimheden currently holds a position as Associate Professor at KTH and is the Director of Mechatronics Education at KTH.

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Can agile methods enhance mechatronics education? Experiences from basing a capstone course on SCRUM.Agile software development methods have changed the way many software developersorganize their work and projects, for example as in SCRUM by delegating responsibilities,empowering individuals and delaying decisions. The main driver in most methods is“accelerated delivery” realized by focusing on small steps, incremental development,prototyping and quick feedback rather than extensive planning and documentation.Mechatronics product development can take advantage of agile methods in two ways. Thefirst would be to develop the software parts of the mechatronics product using agile softwaremethods. This can however be contradictory to mechatronics design since it means focusingon one area only and not taking a holistic viewpoint based on synergy between software,hardware and control for example. The second approach, which is studied in this paper, meansthat we instead train students to apply agile development methods on overall mechatronicsproduct development, with a holistic perspective.The case studied in this paper is based on a capstone course in Mechatronics given at KTH,the Royal Institute of Technology, since 1984. The challenge of today’s capstone projects arenot the specific technical competencies but rather organizational issues, as we haveexperienced it over many years. The projects are complex and based on knowledge andcompetencies in several fields, spread over all members of the student team (and faculty). Wehave therefore invested most of resources in terms of course development and curriculumdesign on topics such as product development, project organization, teamwork andmechatronics design methodologies. We do believe that this is what’s most urgent to includenext in our curriculum.Starting from March 2011, we have transferred from striving to organize the students in ourcapstone course according to traditional organizations with student project leaders, division ofresponsibilities. Instead, we now encourage and coach the students in self-organizing dynamicteams using the SCRUM approach. This has greatly changed the learning process within thecapstone course by delegating the responsibility to the teams. Among the effects of thischange is that we now educate mechatronics engineers better capable of organizingmechatronics product development, work in self-organizing teams and to take a greaterresponsibility for the overall aspects of product development. The difficulties related tomarrying SCRUM, mechatronics and a capstone course is primarily that it is hard to moveaway from traditional methods and that SCRUM (as with most agile methods) so far is mainlyused in the software community. Our students found it hard to think about traditional projectorganizations without project leaders.In conclusion, our evaluation shows that it indeed is possible to integrate SCRUM in amechatronics capstone course and that this makes the students better prepared for a futurecareer. We have also seen that this prepares the students with a larger flexibility to handle theincreased complexity in mechatronics product development and thereby enabling the projectteams to deliver results faster, more reliable and with higher quality.

Grimheden, M. E. (2012, June), Can Agile Methods Enhance Mechatronics Education? Experiences from Basing a Capstone Course on SCRUM Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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