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Early Development Of Capstone Design Team Through Graduate Student Mentoring And Team Building Activities

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.456.1 - 8.456.11



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Paper Authors

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Steven Beyerlein

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Jeff Williams

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Beth Milligan

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Andrew DuBuisson

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Robert Drew

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Karl Rink

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Edwin Odom

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

Session 2793

Early Development of Capstone Design Teams through Graduate Student Mentoring and Team Building Activities

Robert Drew, Andrew DuBuisson, Beth Milligan, Jeff Williams, Steven Beyerlein, Edwin Odom, Karl Rink University of Idaho Mechanical Engineering Department


Capstone design teams at the University of Idaho undertake year-long, industry-sponsored design projects extending from conceptualization through realization of functional prototypes. Team experiences at the U of I have shown that teams that have early external leadership are more prepared for a successful capstone experience than teams that are left to their own devices. This paper outlines how graduate student mentors facilitate team development. Strategies include leading the teams in introductory meetings and organizing team-building activities such as a ropes course, a shop orientation, tracking early progress on a present condition board, and visualizing accomplishments in team documentation. Successful teams tend to immerse themselves in the project very soon after team formation, generating insightful customer interview questions and producing a realistic schedule for the year. Graduate student mentors increase the likelihood of a successful transition by providing a model for effective team organization. Surveys show that teams benefit from structured activities and assistance received in the early stages of team development, leading to enhanced team confidence and understanding. Discoveries about start-up activities, mentor affirmation, and early design-team interventions from the capstone design program at the University of Idaho are likely to add value in other contexts.


Most new team members have difficulty functioning together and trusting each other. Short-term project organizers tend to avoid this problem by creating a high level of organization that forces students to work together efficiently to complete the project within the allotted time. A high level of organization is not an option for long-term projects in which the team itself must organize the project and meet the goals and deadlines. Methods must be developed to assist the team members in creating a bond with one another to effectively and efficiently achieve project objectives.

Many institutions, and even some corporations, use early group activities to promote team formation. In previous years, the Capstone Design Course at the University of Idaho has included the creation of a small multi-tool as a method of shop orientation and mentor-to-team bonding exercise. 1 Some schools have incorporated team dynamics exercises such as group juggling and logic games to help students quickly get to know one another and lower personal boundaries. 2 Olin College has used an activity of building and raising Styrofoam towers to let prospective students meet and get to know their future peers and faculty during an orientation weekend.3

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Beyerlein, S., & Williams, J., & Milligan, B., & DuBuisson, A., & Drew, R., & Rink, K., & Odom, E. (2003, June), Early Development Of Capstone Design Team Through Graduate Student Mentoring And Team Building Activities Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11811

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