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Developing An Open Ended Junior Level Laboratory Experience To Prepare Students For Capstone Design

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Capstone

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.384.1 - 15.384.10



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Paper Authors

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James Palmer Louisiana Tech University

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Hisham Hegab Louisiana Tech University

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

Developing an Open Ended Junior Level Laboratory Experience to Prepare Students for Capstone Design


A junior level Nanosystems Engineering open-ended laboratory course was developed to provide students with a common experience to enable them to be more effective in their capstone design course. Traditionally, the lecture and laboratory courses build specific technical skills that the students apply in the capstone experience. However, there is little transition between the highly defined problems provided in lecture and laboratory courses versus the open-ended project students are asked to solve in their capstone design course. The capstone design projects for the Nanosystems Engineering program is provided by faculty across a variety of disciplines. Therefore, it became evident that rather than expecting each faculty mentor to provide certain basic skills, a more effective approach would be to have all Nanosystems Engineering students to work on a smaller open-ended project in the last quarter of the Junior year to teach all the elements that they would need to apply more deeply in their capstone project the following year. The educational goal of this course is primarily to enhance the engineering design process (ABET 3c), however other educational goals include the development of: critical thinking skills/problem solving (ABET 3b); written/oral communication of results (ABET 3g); economics, safety and environmental considerations (ABET 3h); literature search approaches (ABET 3j); teamwork (ABET 3d); and analytical techniques (ABET 3k).

This course presented in this paper is very different than the majority of nanotechnology laboratory courses that expose or demonstrate a wide variety of nanotechnology techniques. The junior level laboratory course focuses on a single process: requiring students to improve the process to manufacture CdSe nanoparticles. Students have performance objectives (control particle size and produce a narrow distribution) that they must balance with economics, safety, environmental, and manufacturability concerns. Students are taught literature searching techniques of both the patent and scientific literature. The students are shown the common structure of literature documents to enable them to extract the information necessary to plan their own experiments. Students work in teams of three or less in the course and provide weekly peer assessments of both time and impact of their progress. The students begin by justifying a process in the literature to focus on by comparing reported particle size performance with economics and safety/environmental concerns. The students conduct baseline experiments similar to the literature and then plan areas of process improvement by focusing on parameters that should provide the greatest economic impact (i.e. recycling or changing solvent, reducing reaction time, increasing batch concentration, etc.).

Very positive feedback has been received in the end of course assessment. Students felt the course strongly impacted their ability to perform design and they appreciated the flexibility (and responsibility) of pursing their own ideas of process improvements. The effectiveness of the course in preparing students for senior design is being assessed by comparing cohort students enrolled in the multidisciplinary capstone course from traditional disciplines (primarily mechanical, electrical, and biomedical engineering degree who did not take the junior nanosystems laboratory course).

Palmer, J., & Hegab, H. (2010, June), Developing An Open Ended Junior Level Laboratory Experience To Prepare Students For Capstone Design Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15869

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