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Civil Engineering Capstone Consultants: From RFP to Reality

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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

The Teacher as Manager: Best Practices for Culminating Design Experiences

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.309.1 - 25.309.18



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Paper Authors


William P. Manion University of Maine

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William P. Manion, M.S., P.E., is an instructor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Maine in Orono. He has taught courses in materials, soil mechanics, computer applications, graphics, and project management since 1998. He has also performed laboratory research, worked for a heavy earthwork construction company, captained charter boats, and managed a land development project. Always interested in new effective teaching strategies, he employs many different pedagogical methods and techniques.

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Judith A. Hakola University of Maine

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Civil Engineering Capstone Consultants: from RFP to RealityOver a seven year evolution, the senior capstone experience in Civil & EnvironmentalEngineering has changed from a single semester, single-project isolated design experience to atwo semester, twelve-project whole-department writing intensive exercise in a real worldcontext. It provides the mechanism for students to transition from academics to the professionalworld, and is a great opportunity to apply coursework skills to a real civil engineering project.The major deliverables are written proposals and design recommendations, which are supportedand vastly enhanced by concurrent one-credit technical writing “Engineering CommunicationProject” (ECP) courses. Taught by technical writing instructors from the English Department,the students are coached through the production of resumes, progress reports, proposals, clientletters, presentations, posters and ultimately their final engineering reports.“Capstone Consultants” is the fictitious consulting firm that actually consists of the departmentalfaculty and senior students. The department chairman is the president of the firm. The courseinstructors have the titles Development Manager, Engineering Manager and Technical WritingManager. Given the management-intensive nature of these courses, these titles seem veryappropriate. All the courses include elements of direct instruction, but also include a great dealof engineering consulting-type management, targeted to a staff of new almost-engineers.The request for proposals (RFP) for capstone projects is distributed on the first day of the fallsemester class in Project Management. In response to the RFP, students organize themselvesinto four- to six-person teams representing an appropriate range of specialty interests, such asgeotechnical, environmental, water resources, structures, transportation and construction. Basedon professional and personal contacts, the teams find and evaluate potential projects, select oneand write an internal proposal to the management of Capstone Consultants. Upon review andmanagement approval, the teams, each advised by a faculty member, revise their internalproposals into comprehensive client proposals. All the projects are real, addressing actual needsof communities and organizations around the region.In the spring semester Engineering Project Design course, the work as proposed is performed.During the design process, students evaluate alternatives, consider regulatory, legal, ethical andsocial constraints, and estimate cost and schedule requirements. The final designrecommendations are presented to the client at the end of the semester in both oral and writtenform. The final reports themselves are considered to be conceptual designs – but have oftenbeen used by clients as decision making and/or marketing tools. Following further work byprofessional engineering firms, many of the projects have been built.This paper will include the background of and evolution to the two-semester senior capstoneexperience, advantages over previous capstone courses, specific management and organizationalstrategies, and highlights from some actual projects.

Manion, W. P., & Hakola, J. A. (2012, June), Civil Engineering Capstone Consultants: From RFP to Reality Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21067

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