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Delivering the Senior Capstone Project: Comparing Year-Long, Single Semester and Hybrid Approaches

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Capstone Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.369.1 - 23.369.15



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Paper Authors


Kevin Schmaltz Western Kentucky University

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Kevin Schmaltz has been at Western Kentucky University for ten years, after serving as the Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Lake Superior State University. Before entering the academic world, he was a project engineer for Shell Oil responsible for the design and installation of oil and gas production facilities for offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. He has a combined 23 years of experience as an engineer in industry and in teaching. He teaches a variety of thermo-fluid and energy conversion courses, as well as design and professional component courses. He has coordinated the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior project team-taught courses in the WKU ME program. He has presented a variety of conference papers on energy conversion initiatives and engineering design initiatives in education.

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Delivering the Senior Capstone Project: Comparing Year-Long, Single Semester and Hybrid Approaches Authors Department of Engineering InstitutionAbstractMechanical Engineering students at Institution experience a project-focused curriculum thatculminates in a design-build-verify team senior project experience, typically supporting anexternal customer’s needs. The ME faculty have developed and implement a Professional Plan toensure that program graduates acquire and demonstrate appropriate professional engineeringabilities allowing them to execute their capstone project as independently as possible. This isconsistent with the Institution ME program’s central philosophy that students will begin theiracademic careers as observers but transition to competent practitioner status at graduationthrough the completion of numerous projects. Over the past decade, the capstone project hasevolved from a single, year-long project, to the current approach involving a single-semesterdesign-build project in the spring semester, preceded by a design-only fall semester project.This paper will detail the evolution of the capstone design experience for Institution MEstudents, placing it in the context of the overall four year project sequence. Freshmen studentsindividually and in teams build clearly defined prototypes, sophomores work in teams on internaldesign-build projects where they must define the outcomes, and juniors extend the designexperience to competition-based projects with an external audience. Starting in 2009, seniorsnow execute a transitional design-only project for an external customer and then are regroupedonto another project team to “autonomously” execute their design-build capstone project. Thishas changed the capstone project implementation from a two-semester to a one-semester (plus afew weeks) experience. The experiences with student teams in the four cohorts to the presentcurrent 2012 academic year have been positive and have produced both expected and unexpectedbenefits. Issues related to the students’ experiences, faculty management, and industrial partneraccommodations will be discussed.Ongoing assessment of the capstone course sequence and the Professional Component outcomeswill be presented. While the Institution ME program is relatively young, a stable ProfessionalComponent framework allows us to offer a project-based curriculum that builds on previouscoursework, assesses student progress meaningfully at each academic level, and permitsadjustments in course content throughout the design sequence based on assessments to ensurethat WKU ME graduates are capable of practicing as engineers.

Schmaltz, K. (2013, June), Delivering the Senior Capstone Project: Comparing Year-Long, Single Semester and Hybrid Approaches Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19383

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