June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Design in Engineering Education
15.259.1 - 15.259.16
Capstone Senior Project Mentoring and Student Creativity
After the 2000 ABET accreditation changes, many Engineering Schools expanded or started capstone senior projects to meet the realization aspect of the engineering education. It is offered in several versions including one and two-semester course. The capstone project offers an integrated experience for the senior students to apply their engineering knowledge to solve a research or applied open-ended problem. The typical project includes design, build and testing phases. Beside the technical aspect, students work in teams and manage budget to meet certain time and resources constraints. Guidance is needed in all stages of the project starting from selecting the suitable project, assigning the teams, design, build, testing, and delivery. Engineering Schools use several models for guidance such as mentors, faculty advisors, acting customers etc. Balancing between guidance and allowing the students to have enough space for creativity has been a challenge.
In this work, a capstone senior project mentoring model is discussed. It includes the interaction between the components of the project: team, faculty advisor, and customer. It adds another level of mentoring where a board of faculty oversees all projects. The faculty members in this board are involved in the projects as faculty advisors, customers or for technical support. Several mentoring tools are presented such as design review meetings, public and technical presentations, written proposal, and final project document. Also tools to improve team dynamics such as weekly meetings, team leader, and team contact person are presented. The model was applied to two of capstone projects and showed success. The first one is to design and build a Mini-Baja off road vehicle for the SAE competition. The second project is to design and build an internet controlled robot. Each project has its own mentoring and management challenges beside the technical problems. Details of each project are discussed including the technical, management, mentoring and window of student creativity.
Capstone project is a unique educational tool where at that level, senior students have developed both the technical and the management skills and they are ready to be challenged with an open- ended problem. However, guidance is still an important part of this educational environment. It completes the process by opening the right doors for the students to apply the correct planning, designing, building and testing procedure for a successful project. Dusing et al1 discussed the use of design review meetings to guide the students before major steps of the project. In this meeting, the students defend their technical decision and are challenged by a couple of faculty member who are experts in the topic being discussed. Miller and Olds2 described a multidisciplinary capstone project to enhance the engineering skills of graduates at the Colorado School of Mines. A two-semester design course was used for that purpose. Multidisciplinary design teams of students worked with a faculty advisor for an industrial client, and solved complex open-ended problems. The authors indicated that the approach has been successful and the industrial client was pleased with the quality of the final product. Although this work represents quite an old example, it definitely shows the success of using a senior project as a teaching tool. Todd et al3
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