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Defining The Role Of The Faculty Advisor In A Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Capstone Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.404.1 - 14.404.20



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Paper Authors


Gregory Watkins California State University, Chico

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Gregory Watkins received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University, a Master of Engineering Management from Old Dominion University, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is an assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering, mechatronic engineering, and manufacturing technology at California State University Chico. He previously taught in the Engineering Technology department at UNC Charlotte and the Engineering Technologies Division at Central Piedmont Community College. He also has nine years of industrial work experience.

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

Defining the Role of the Faculty Advisor in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course


The mechanical engineering program at California State University Chico utilizes a two-semester capstone course in senior design project. Project work is accomplished in groups, which are assigned a single faculty advisor for the duration of the project.

Senior exit surveys, along with substantial anecdotal evidence, have repeatedly identified advisement of senior projects as a problem area in the curriculum. A strong recurring theme in the results has been a lack of understanding of exactly what the faculty advisor’s role should be.

Department faculty worked to clearly define the role of the faculty advisor in the capstone design course. Goals of the effort included a clearer understanding of the advisor’s role by students (and faculty), more consistent advising across groups, and a better overall design experience.

A new paradigm of design project advisement was implemented during the 2008-2009 academic year. To assess its effectiveness, the previous year’s students were surveyed on their perceptions of the role of the faculty advisor, as well as the advisor’s overall effectiveness. The survey was repeated for this year’s students, providing feedback about the success of the new model.

Overview of Senior Design Project

As with many engineering programs, the mechanical and mechatronic engineering curricula at California State University Chico utilize a two-semester capstone course in senior design project. The intent is for students to utilize competencies developed in the first three years of the curriculum in the solution of a real-world design problem. The fall semester is predominantly spent in design activities, while the spring encompasses prototype building and testing. Projects may come from local industry, may be competition based, or may come from other sources.

During the fall semester, weekly lectures are given that cover many aspects of the design process. Selected topics include customer requirements and specifications, conceptual design, decision making, project management, cost estimating, budgets, documentation and formal reports. Each project group is required to give three oral presentations during the semester. The presentation topics are project proposal, midterm review, and final design. The semester concludes with submission of a comprehensive design report.

The spring semester includes less time in the classroom and more spent building and testing the designs. Students are required to develop a comprehensive test plan to prove the specifications developed in the fall semester. They then fabricate and test the design, and in most cases, proceed directly to redesign activities. The semester concludes with a final oral presentation, a poster and display of the prototype, and submission of a comprehensive written report.

Watkins, G. (2009, June), Defining The Role Of The Faculty Advisor In A Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5627

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