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Converting Single Disciplinary Capstone Projects To Interdisciplinary Experiences

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.301.1 - 6.301.7



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George Seaward

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

Session 2525

Converting Single Disciplinary Capstone Projects to Interdisciplinary Experiences George H. Seaward United States Military Academy West Point, New York


This paper presents a plan for taking a single disciplinary mechanical engineering capstone project (designing and building a Mini Baja vehicle for operation over rough terrain and in deep water) and turning it into an interdisciplinary experience. An analysis is conducted on the potential benefits of including students with engineering management skills to assist with project management, and students with human factors engineering skills to design the vehicle cockpit layout including controls and displays. These contributions supplement the efforts of mechanical engineering students who design the frame, powertrain, brakes, suspension, steering, and flotation systems.

One of the most important benefits involved with participating in a senior capstone design course is the opportunity to interact with students from other disciplines in a forum where the contributions of each are necessary to successfully complete the project. In addition, adoption of interdisciplinary capstone projects meets the requirements set forth in ABET EC2000. Capstone projects that currently involve students from only a single discipline could greatly benefit from adoption of an interdisciplinary program. However, there are barriers that prevent this from occurring as often as it should. The most significant of these problems include the following: varying levels of interest among different departments in participating in an interdisciplinary project; differences in senior capstone and individual study project requirements for different academic disciplines; and the challenges of fostering a climate of mutual respect and cooperation between students from different academic backgrounds.

I. Introduction

When engineering students graduate and find employment in industry, they often find themselves working on teams of people with diverse backgrounds in terms of education and experience. Typically, a group is formed with a mix of people in order to solve a specific engineering challenge, and the unique skills and expertise of each team member are required in order to solve the problem. As a result, an ability to perform well on teams of diverse membership is a desirable trait for engineering graduates to possess. Participation on an interdisciplinary capstone project is a unique opportunity for students to develop and demonstrate this trait while still in school. Accordingly, ABET EC 2000 criteria specify functioning on multi-disciplinary teams as part of required engineering program outcomes [1].

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, Amercian Society for Engineering Education

Seaward, G. (2001, June), Converting Single Disciplinary Capstone Projects To Interdisciplinary Experiences Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9042

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