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Effectively Implementing The Interdisciplinary Senior Design Experience: A Case Study And Conclusions

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Capstone Design & Project Courses

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.584.1 - 12.584.20



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Paper Authors


Matthew Green LeTourneau University

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Dr. Matthew G. Green is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at LeTourneau University, Longview. His objective is to practice and promote engineering as a serving profession, with special recognition of opportunities to improve the quality of life in developing countries. Topics include the design of affordable transportation, training engineers to design for marginalized populations, needs assessment in frontier design environments, assistive devices for persons with disabilities, and remote power generation. Contact:

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Paul Leiffer LeTourneau University

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Dr. Paul R. Leiffer is a professor in the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University and chair of the Engineering Department, where he has taught since 1979. He is co-developer of the program in BioMedical Engineering. He received his B.S.E.E. from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Drexel University. Prior to joining the faculty at LeTourneau, he was involved in cardiac cell research at the University of Kansas Medical Center. His professional interests include bioinstrumentation, digital signal processing, and engineering ethics. Email:

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Thomas Hellmuth LeTourneau University

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Dr. Tom Hellmuth is Dean of the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas. He obtained a B.S.M.E. from Rice University in 1978, an M.S.M.E. from Colorado State University in 1980, and a Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1995. He worked in industry in the area of machine and thermal system design for about five years before beginning his teaching career. He has taught for 20 years in mechanical engineering and engineering technology programs. Current interests are in modeling of thermal systems and engineering design. Email:

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Roger Gonzalez LeTourneau University


Stephen Ayers LeTourneau University

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Dr. Stephen Ayers is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University, Longview.

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

Effectively Implementing the Interdisciplinary Senior Design Experience: A Case Study and Conclusions

Abstract Providing an interdisciplinary capstone design experience in the senior year is an effective approach to address industry needs and the requirements of ABET Criterion 3d (“… an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams.”) Additionally, interdisciplinary senior design allows a rich set of project deliverables and thus enhances possibilities for funded or mission-driven projects such as overseas infrastructure relief. The breadth of deliverables made possible by interdisciplinary senior design also facilitates institutional goals regarding faculty development and scholarship by enhancing undergraduate research possibilities. However, numerous obstacles to interdisciplinary design can prevent an effective implementation and the associated benefits. In this paper we outline a set of tactics for implementing an effective interdisciplinary senior design experience. Since these tactics are derived from our own successes and failures, our experiences illustrate the tactics as a case study. Our goal as a general engineering program offering a B.S. in Engineering with concentrations in Electrical, Mechanical, Computer, Biomedical, and Materials Joining, is to involve every student in an interdisciplinary design experience with two or more concentrations.

We have identified seven key elements that we believe must be coordinated across disciplines in order to conduct an effective interdisciplinary senior design experience for all students. (1) Faculty roles must be defined, assigned, and appropriately credited. This may be handled by someone in a leadership position such as a dean or chairman initiating (and possibly maintaining) a senior design committee populated by the faculty teaching and supervising senior design teams. (2) Design projects must be identified, defined, and selected according to a set of criteria agreed- upon by the faculty involved. Project diversity may be vast, including for example: externally funded research, industry projects, international humanitarian projects, and student design competitions. Such projects can vary widely according to institutional motivations, stakeholder characteristics, and required deliverables. Project selection criteria may include fulfilling institutional objectives, matching available student disciplines with project needs, and fulfilling educational objectives. (3) Student teams should be formed in a way that acknowledges individual student motivations and preferences (although there is some debate on the importance of this point). Team members must also represent the academic disciplines needed for a project and satisfy the requirements of individual faculty supervisors for student capabilities. (4) Resources must be allocated among teams and faculty including funding, team facility space, and lab access. This may require external fundraising for teams with large budget needs. (5) A design class structure must be created to deliver content and organize the design experience with compatibility for each academic discipline. (6) A common design process must be agreed upon for the projects that is broad enough to accommodate the diversity of projects and yet specific enough to provide guidance and accountability to individual teams and faculty supervisors. Finally, (7) project assessment criteria and procedures must be agreed upon by the involved faculty for equitable evaluation of teams and individual team members. Our tactics for each of these key elements and results will be discussed.

Green, M., & Leiffer, P., & Hellmuth, T., & Gonzalez, R., & Ayers, S. (2007, June), Effectively Implementing The Interdisciplinary Senior Design Experience: A Case Study And Conclusions Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2912

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