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Collaborating With Local Practitioners To Lead A Capstone Civil Engineering Design Course

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

CE Capstone: Innovations in Learning & Assessment

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.283.1 - 15.283.17

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Paper Authors


Gregg Fiegel California Polytechnic State University

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Gregg L. Fiegel is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo. He is a registered Professional Engineer in California, and he serves as the ASCE Student Chapter Faculty Advisor. Dr. Fiegel received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Cal Poly in 1990. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Davis in 1992 and 1995, respectively.

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Jay DeNatale California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Jay S. DeNatale is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo. He is a registered Professional Engineer in California. Dr. DeNatale received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Davis in 1977. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, both in Geotechnical Engineering, from the same institution in 1979 and 1983, respectively.

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

Collaborating with Local Practitioners to Lead a Capstone Civil Engineering Design Course


The paper describes a civil engineering capstone design course led by faculty and practitioners. The objectives, content, and organizational structure of the two-quarter capstone course are summarized. The primary student activity involves work on a multidisciplinary private sector development or public works project. During the first term, the students prepare a written Statement of Qualifications in response to a specific Request for Qualifications. During the second term, the students prepare a written Design Report with a full set of calculations and design drawings. Each term, the students present their ideas orally to a panel of faculty and practitioners. An instructional team of three to five faculty members and up to thirty senior-level practitioners leads each course offering. The practitioners play an essential role in the delivery of the course, acting as section instructors, guest speakers, interview panel members, and project advisors. Details regarding the responsibilities of the instructional team members are included in the paper. The paper also describes how local practitioners are prepared for their assignments. The new course represents a valuable program assessment tool since class activities permit direct measurement of program outcomes. Included in the paper are discussions of the course assessment processes and the procedures used to promote grading consistency among the faculty and practitioner evaluators. Improvements made to both the course and program are discussed.


Our civil engineering capstone design sequence recently morphed from an individual study course into a directed study offering. A number of concerns motivated this change, including the desire to provide a realistic multidisciplinary capstone design experience and the desire to improve our degree program's assessment processes. Since the new course was introduced, over six hundred students working in over one hundred design teams have completed four different projects, all under the direction of four faculty members and a team of practicing professionals. To date, over forty local professionals have participated as members of the instructional team.

In this paper, we discuss the motivation for changing the format of the course. We also describe the structure of the new course and the activities that course participants are expected to complete. In developing and implementing the new course, we relied extensively on support provided by local civil engineering professionals. The local professionals were recruited to assist with the course so that (1) we could provide realistic design experiences for the students and (2) we could integrate professional practice issues directly into the course curriculum. In the paper, we describe the specific roles that local professionals play on the instructional team.

Both faculty members and local practitioners helped to assess course and program outcomes. We present course and program assessment data in the paper, along with a brief discussion of the results.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015