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Capstone Design Courses: A Comparison Of Course Formats

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.135.1 - 5.135.5



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Martin Pike

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

Session 2625

Capstone Design Courses: A Comparison of Course Formats

Dr. Martin Pike

Purdue University


A capstone design project course is a common component of Engineering and Engineering Technology curriculums. There are many possible formats for offering such a course, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The author has taught the capstone design course at three different universities, each with a different format (single term with a single project, multi-term with a single project and a single term multi-project). This paper will discuss the author’s experiences with each of the three formats and the advantages and disadvantages of each format. Included will be recommendations to make the course more successful for each format and reasons why the single term – single project format is the least desirable of the three.


Many engineering and technology departments require the students to take a design project course as seniors to serve as a wrap up of the program and provide a comprehensive design experience as well as meet accreditation criteria. The classical format for this design project course is a single project to be started and completed in a single term. However, this design experience can be achieved in many different possible formats. The author has taught senior design in three formats at three different universities. These formats include the classical single term with a single project, a multi-term design course sequence with a single project and a format that had two or three design projects in a single term. Each format has advantages and disadvantages to both students and faculty. This paper will discuss these various formats, each format’s advantages and disadvantages, and recommendations that may be considered to enhance the chances of success for each format.

The single term - single project format

The classical format encompasses a single project that is defined, researched, including design activity, often including building and testing a prototype, and culminating in a final report. All these aspects are to be completed in a fifteen or sixteen week semester. At some institutions that are on a trimester system, such as the one the author attended, all this activity must be completed in ten to eleven weeks. This is an intimidating prospect to many students and faculty alike. Many variations exist to make this process less intimidating and improve chances of success. Some schools define the project topic and parameters for the students instead of requiring the students to create their own project topic. Often these departmentally defined

Pike, M. (2000, June), Capstone Design Courses: A Comparison Of Course Formats Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8196

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