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Capstone - Rules of Engagement

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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

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 13

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Afroditi Vennie Filippas Virginia Commonwealth University

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Dr. Filippas received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Patras, Greece. After earning her M. S. and Ph. D. from the University of Texas at Austin, she completed post-doctoral research with the Institute of Accelerating Systems and Applications in Athens, Greece. Post-academically, she worked for Ansoft Corporation as a research scientist spearheading the development of the next generation code for Ansoft DesignerTM. Dr. Filippas joined Virginia Commonwealth University as an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering in 2004. She went on to achieve the position of Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2008. In 2010, Dr. Filippas agreed to serve as interim associate dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Engineering. Dr. Filippas was appointed to the position of associate dean of Undergraduate Studies in 2015, and was promoted to Professor in August, 2016. In this role, she is responsible for all aspects of the undergraduate program. She provides vision and leadership in achieving the School’s objectives for substantial growth in the size and quality of its undergraduate enrollment while maintaining its commitment to excellence in undergraduate engineering education. Focus areas include contemporary teaching and learning technologies, capstone, special degree programs with partnering academic institutions, and K-12 outreach. Dr. Filippas is especially proud of her collaboration with NSBE at VCU, an organization that embodies excellence in academics as well as community service, leadership and diversity. In addition, Dr. Filippas was instrumental in establishing oSTEM on the campus as well as reaching out to other underrepresented minority groups to further the university’s commitment to student success and inclusive excellence.

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Umit Ozgur Virginia Commonwealth University

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Umit Ozgur received his B.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics from Bogazici University (Turkey) and PhD degree in Physics from Duke University in 2003. He joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at VCU in 2008 as an Assistant Professor following postdoctoral researcher and instructor positions at Duke University and VCU. He was awarded the Qimonda Endowed Professorship in 2012, and received Parent’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2012 and Faculty Excellence Award for excellence in teaching in 2014. He has made contributions to the understanding of ultrafast carrier dynamics in semiconductor heterostructures and light emitters, with over 100 journal articles including several critical reviews, 4 book chapters, and a book on Zinc Oxide materials and devices. His current research interests include development of semiconductor heterostructures and nanostructures for high efficiency light emitting devices and biosensors.

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The execution of the Capstone project is one of the most intense educational experiences for the student teams and their instructors/mentors. In our and many other institutional models, a team of a few students is led through a year-long experience to project completion by the instructor(s). For many students, it is the first time they have worked one on one with a professor and the first time their entire grade relies on their performance on one project that is executed over such a long period of time. In addition, for many, it is the first time their performance on a team is directly observed and evaluated for aspects such as teamwork, personal contribution and ability to sustain a long-term, congenial relationship with each other and with their professor. To be successful, students need to develop the characteristics of a life-long learner, develop project planning and team dynamics coping mechanisms, combine and apply problem solving skills, and strike the balance between demonstrating independent thinking and exhibiting what the five factor model (FFM) calls the “agreeableness” trait. At our institution, the projects culminate in a Capstone Expo that is attended by an audience ranging in skill sets and interests from Middle and High School students to industry partners, industry experts, engineering students and faculty and students from around the university. The paper will cover all the above aspects of the Capstone experience up to and including preparing the team for the Expo. The authors bring a combined seven years of industry and thirteen plus six years of teaching experience. This has led to the development of a holistic, systemic and successful approach to advising and mentoring Capstone teams. In the years that we have been leading these projects, our teams have earned top honors on at least nine separate occasions, in spite of sometimes having to overcome impediments such as initial lack of direction, unequal skill sets among the students, lack of self-motivation and imperfect team dynamics. All projects produced the design and construction of a prototype and included devices ranging from an Electromagnetic Launch Apparatus , a linear/rotary motor, a 3-D Printed Microwave Hyperthermia Applicator (multi-disciplinary), a Li-Fi system (Multi-Channel Unbounded Optical Communication through the modulation of LED lighting), Wind Energy Harvesters for Urban Small-Scale Power Generation, a Training Platform for Control Systems and a Nuclear Power Plant Trainer (multidisciplinary) and Simulator (multidisciplinary). This paper will outline the rules of engagement that we have imposed when dealing with these teams. These rules work for both internally driven and industry sponsored projects as well as for single-discipline or multi-disciplinary teams. The rules that we outline are a blend of academic and industry-inspired metrics and methods that will work under many conditions and for varying levels of team and individual academic preparedness, self-motivation, diligence and persistence. They help keep faculty mentors and student teams goal-oriented and engaged. The paper will present examples and lessons learned that led to the development of this systemic approach as well as link each activity to the proposed improvement in outcomes. It will also present specific project examples, outline their challenges and demonstrate the final results. We will also present a qualitative assessment of student achievement and student and faculty satisfaction as these rules were developed and implemented through the years.

Filippas, A. V., & Ozgur, U. (2017, June), Capstone - Rules of Engagement Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28008

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