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Client Based Projects For Every Senior – A Mark Of Excellence For Any Program

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Experienced-Based Instruction

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.299.1 - 8.299.14



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Paper Authors

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Allen Estes

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Ronald Welch

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

Session 3515

Client-Based Projects for Every Senior – A Mark of Excellence for Any Program

Ronald W. Welch, Allen C. Estes United States Military Academy


This paper describes a unique senior project capstone course used successfully by the ABET- Accredited Civil Engineering Program at the United States Military Academy (USMA) to greatly enhance the academic program. The three general project classifications available within this senior project course are service-based (i.e., USMA, the Army, local community), competition- based (i.e., steel bridge, concrete canoe, timber bridge), and research-based. Many of these projects each year have design-build components requiring one to six students. The mix of these open-ended projects usually ensures that each student can list a minimum of 3-5 project choices that meet their individual needs for a challenging, yet rewarding academic experience – something for everyone! Most students list at least one, if not all, of the service-based projects. Some projects have multiple teams of students trying to sell themselves to the faculty advisor as the team of choice.

It will be shown through student assessment that this form of experience not only challenges, but also motivates the students like no other aspect of their academic experience. The students are providing a solution to a real world problem for a real client. The reverse is also true; student involvement in solving real problems and/or designing/building products stimulates the clients and sponsors to become heavily involved during the process. Increased client participation enhances not only the quality of the product, but the experience for the student and client. These semester-long projects are a great learning experience for all, including the faculty. The assessment will show that the students find the program demanding, but enjoyable and worthwhile, because it forces them to push the boundaries of the their knowledge through initiative, self-study, perseverance, and creativity.

I. Introduction

For over 30 years independent study projects have been offered to civil engineering students at USMA, but only to the top 2-3 students in the program. The projects focused on in-depth study in a specific civil engineering sub-discipline with the ultimate goal being greater student knowledge through self-study and only occasional faculty guidance. In the mid-eighties, the steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions were added as yearly projects. It became quickly evident that the right team with students possessing hands-on skills could not always come from the top tier of students. In fact most of the students wanting to be part of the competition experience were not in the top tier. Of course, faculty were concerned whether the students would be truly self-starters and able to complete the work required to design and then build the prototype for the competition, -- all in one semester. In the end, faculty advisors and students alike found the experience to be exhilarating, challenging, and just plain different from the normal academic experience.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference& Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Estes, A., & Welch, R. (2003, June), Client Based Projects For Every Senior – A Mark Of Excellence For Any Program Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12565

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