June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Design in Engineering Education
14.364.1 - 14.364.34
Content in Capstone Design Courses: Pilot Survey Results from Faculty, Students, and Industry
Capstone design courses are a common culminating experience in engineering programs across the country. A pilot study was developed to probe the content included in capstone design courses. The study was motivated by a desire to understand not only what is taught in capstone courses, but how that content is covered, how well students think they have learned the content, what content proficiency is expected of entry level employees, and how important the content is for student learning from the perspective of faculty, students, and industry employers. The study consisted of three surveys (one for each of faculty, students, and industry) about a specific set of 24 capstone course topics. Responses were received from 48 faculty, 240 students, and 19 industry employees, representing five engineering disciplines. As a first look at a large set of results, this paper addresses the importance of the topics from the perspective of all three groups (faculty, students, industry) and presents data regarding what content faculty cover, methods of content delivery, reported student proficiency, and industry expectations for entry level employees. While the pilot study data are vast and multi-faceted, two emerging themes from all three surveys are a) the importance of professional skills for student learning and development and b) the disconnect between perceived and expected proficiency for capstone graduates. This effort adds to a growing body of work to understand and ultimately improve capstone education.
1. Introduction and Motivation
Capstone engineering design course program instantiations are based upon academic institution, department, and instructor. Each brings a unique perspective to the course and the learning environment. Capstone engineering design projects are each unique in their own right since individuals or teams may select a project that has never been done before. In this context of variations of uniqueness, if that can be used as a means to define an educational environment, is it possible to evaluate a capstone engineering design program, identify a benchmark, and recommend areas for improvement? The work presented in this paper is a first step in a longer process to answer this question.
The research discussed below builds on the premise that an academic institution is preparing its engineering students for a level of proficiency in their discipline. Upon graduation, these educated engineers are attractive to industry as entry-level employees. (Note, this work is specifically focused on the industrial career path.) The best measurement for proficiency is to validate industry’s expectations of an entry-level engineer against the product that academia has produced. Within that context, the focus of this research is on the design, project, and professional attributes associated with capstone engineering courses.
The long-term motivation for this research is to identify and develop pedagogical methods to improve the proficiency of engineering students completing a capstone engineering design program, specifically, to make them more innovative, entrepreneurial, and able to meet the needs of their future careers. Additionally, the essential objective is to determine the best practices
Howe, S., & Lasser, R., & Su, K., & Pedicini, S. (2009, June), Content In Capstone Design Courses: Pilot Survey Results From Faculty, Students, And Industry Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5239
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