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Development of a Civil Engineering Capstone Design Course for a New Program

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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

23.411.1 - 23.411.7



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Paper Authors

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David A Saftner University of Minnesota Duluth

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Sara D. Ojard University of Minnesota Duluth

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Eshan V. Dave University of Minnesota, Duluth

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Nathan William Johnson University of Minnesota Duluth

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Eil Kwon

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Rebecca Teasley Civil Engineering University of Minnesota Duluth

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Development of a Civil Engineering Capstone Design Course for a New ProgramThis paper describes the process of developing a capstone design course for a new civilengineering program. The University of Minnesota Duluth’s Department of Civil Engineeringaccepted its first students in 2008, graduated its first class in 2012, and first offered a capstonedesign course in the 2012 spring semester. The program accepts roughly 70 students per year.While consideration was given to several different capstone design models, a choice was made tobase the design experience around a single fictitious design project assigned to small groups ofstudents (5-6 per group).During the 2012 spring semester, the project required students to design a building on a small,local site. Three group project submittals, 20%, 50%, and 100% design submittals, wererequired, each including an environmental, geotechnical, hydrological, structural, andtransportation component. Students were assigned to each group randomly and local engineershelped determine the project parameters, provided mentorship to student groups throughout thesemester, and feedback on submittals.After collecting and synthesizing student, professional engineer, and faculty feedback, severalchanges were implemented for the 2012 fall semester. These changes focused on the impact ofstudents’ in-depth experience in one area of civil engineering (i.e. environmental, geotechnical,hydrological, structural, or transportation), while doing little work in other components. In theupdated course model, the fictitious design project was modified to a site with broaderimplications for affecting existing civil infrastructure. Additionally, student group size wasreduced to four and major changes were implemented in relation to the content of the submittals.The first submittal focused on choosing a specific site, accounting for, among other factors,environmental, hydrological, and traffic concerns. Subsequent proposals focused ongeotechnical, structural, and site civil features. Local engineers were still involved in each phaseof the projects.Changing the proposals to focus on certain aspects of the project prevented the smaller studentgroups from organizing themselves into subgroups which dealt only with a narrow portion of theproject. Thus, the updated course provided a broader, but more general experience for eachstudent. This paper compares the different capstone design experiences from both academic andindustry perspectives. Results from the analysis are part of a larger comparison between narrow,in-depth and broad, general approaches to design experiences for undergraduate civil engineeringstudents.

Saftner, D. A., & Ojard, S. D., & Dave, E. V., & Johnson, N. W., & Kwon, E., & Teasley, R. (2013, June), Development of a Civil Engineering Capstone Design Course for a New Program Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19425

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