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Collaboration between Seniors and Freshmen on Senior Capstone Projects

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

New Pedagogical Approaches in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Anthony Butterfield University of Utah

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Anthony Butterfield is an Assistant Professor (Lecturing) in the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Utah. He received his B. S. and Ph. D. from the University of Utah and a M. S. from the University of California, San Diego. His teaching responsibilities include the senior unit operations laboratory and freshman design laboratory. His research interests focus on undergraduate education, targeted drug delivery, photobioreactor design, and instrumentation.

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Kyle Joe Branch University of Utah

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Kyle Branch is a third-year graduate student at the University of Utah Department of Chemical Engineering. He has helped develop and teach two freshman courses, using the materials and methods described in this paper. His main research interest is in engineering education, focusing on the creation and analysis of interactive simulations for undergraduate chemical engineering courses.

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Learning through teaching is well-recognized as a tool of pedagogy, which, if implemented effectively, may result in significant gains for both the mentor and mentee student. Furthermore, developing social connections to a department, and forming the engineering identity of incoming students have both been repeatedly demonstrated to improve student retention. To benefit by such teaching and retention potential, we have introduced collaborative projects for inter-cohort teams of freshmen and senior students in the University of Utah’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

Freshmen develop their resumes over their first year in our program. Towards the end of our spring semester they use their resumes to apply for positions on the senior capstone projects on which they are most interested in working. Senior teams then use the resumes to make hiring decisions. Once teams are assembled, the inter-cohort groups work together for approximately three weeks to complete a capstone laboratory project. Significant logistical hurdles were encountered due to the divergent expectations, schedules, and priorities of the two groups. However, effective management methods were developed to address these issues, and mitigate interpersonal conflicts.

Survey results were collected for over 300 students involved in this program. Peer, mentor, and mentee evaluations were also collected, along with faculty evaluations of the senior team’s management and use of their freshmen employees. Results reveal significant freshman and senior satisfaction with this collaborative project, but this satisfaction is greatly dependent upon the senior team’s use of project tools made available to them to overcome logistical barriers. Free response answers and direct observations show that freshmen gained valuable insights into their academic and professional trajectory from the seniors. Seniors gained an appreciation for how an employer might regard their resume, and for methods of management of “employees”, whereas, up to this point in their academic careers, they had only experienced team dynamics on teams of equals. This method of inter-cohort project development has led to significant returns for seniors and freshmen alike.

Butterfield, A., & Branch, K. J. (2016, June), Collaboration between Seniors and Freshmen on Senior Capstone Projects Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26506

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