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Designettes in Capstone: Impact of Early Design Experiences in Capstone Education with Emphasis on Depth of Design Process Content

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Design Tools and Skill Development

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Cory Cooper United States Air Force Academy

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Lieutenant Colonel Cory Cooper is currently the Director of the Systems Engineering Program at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He holds a PhD an MSc in Systems Engineering from the Technical University of Delft and the Air Force Institute of Technology respectively. He has held various developmental engineering and program management positions in the US Air Force, to include Deputy Director for Airworthiness in the F-35 Lightning II Program Office, deployed Joint Combat Damage Assessor for US/Coalition/Contractor/Afghan aircraft in Afghanistan, Chief of Operations for the Systems Engineering Program at USAFA, Mechanical Systems Engineer in the C/KC-135 Program Office, and deployed Aircraft Battle Damage Repair Engineer for B-1B aircraft.

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Daniel D. Jensen United States Air Force Academy

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Dr. Dan Jensen is a Professor of Engineering Mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy where he has been since 1997. He received his B.S. (Mechanical Engineering), M.S. (Applied Mechanics) and Ph.D. (Aerospace Engineering Science) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has worked for Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, NASA, University of the Pacific, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and MSC Software Corp. His research includes design of Micro Air Vehicles, development of innovative design methodologies and enhancement of engineering education. Dr Jensen has authored over 100 refereed papers and has been awarded over $4 million of research grants.

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Michael Lawrence Anderson P.E. United States Air Force Academy

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Lt Col Mike Anderson is Assistant Professor of Engineering Mechanics, U.S. Air Force Academy. He has been researching autonomous systems for twelve years, authoring several papers relevant to the field including design of terrestrial and aerial robots, energy efficiency and perching for small UAS, and flight control of Micro Air Vehicles (MAV). Lt Col Anderson has worked as an F-16 flight control actuation systems engineer at Hill Air Force Base, Utah and researched design and control of quadruped robots. Lt Col Anderson earned his PhD in Aeronautical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 2011 where he performed pioneering research in the design and control of flapping wing MAVs. From 2011-2014 he served in the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate (AFRL/RW) where he led research in GPS-denied navigation for multi-agent autonomous systems. Lt Col Anderson is a registered Professional Engineer and a Senior Member of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he serves on their Unmanned Systems Program Committee. His research at the Academy focuses on innovative design methodologies applied to UAV problems.

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The engineering design process can be a complex and lengthy process, and be considered a daunting experience for engineering students embarking on their first full-length project. “Designettes” are a pedagogical approach to introducing parts of engineering design in such a way that students can experience it in a manageable, introductory fashion. In many design courses, students may experience design activities such as “Customer Needs Analysis,” “Functional Decomposition,” “Concept Generation,” “Concept Selection” and “Prototype Planning” for the first time. One approach to increasing design experience to aid understanding of these activities is to use the designette exercise to provide the students with a framework of the design process. They can then rely this framework for their longer capstone projects. The designette is highly tailorable and an understanding of the appropriate factors related to its successful implementation is desired. We have used several versions of the designette approach over the past five years in our two-semester capstone design course. Each year we’ve implemented the designette across numerous projects, where teams of 3-8 students are also assigned year-long, externally sponsored projects. Previous research reported on the effects of varying the length of the designette and with the use of related and unrelated designettes to the students’ year-long projects. In each use of the designette, the suite of five design activities mentioned above was presented in varying levels of depth of coverage. For the past two years, data has been gathered on the effect of varying the amount of design content provided on the effectiveness of the designette approach. Design content detail in the current year of designettes was increased by approximately 50% over previous years. Faculty and student feedback was primarily used to characterize and compare the designette’s effectiveness. Initial results suggest a continued benefit of the inclusion of the designette approach to capstone design courses, with varying results from the depth of design process coverage.

Cooper, C., & Jensen, D. D., & Anderson, M. L. (2017, June), Designettes in Capstone: Impact of Early Design Experiences in Capstone Education with Emphasis on Depth of Design Process Content Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28123

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