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Engagement in Practice: Creating an Enduring Partnership in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 6

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Community Engagement Division

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Shoshanah Cohen Stanford University Orcid 16x16

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Shoshanah Cohen is the Director of Community Engaged Learning for Engineering and Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. She has more than 20 years of industry experience managing complex supply chain projects; her teaching focuses on experiential project-based operations courses.

Shoshanah is actively engaged in local community organizations focused on public education and services for underserved students. She is a passionate advocate for girls in STEM and coaches a robotics team comprised of girls from 22 high schools.

Shoshanah holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford, an MA in Technology Strategy from Boston University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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Jeff Wood Stanford University

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Goal: Make a difference in the world, through development and training of engineers to solve the most pressing problems facing the world today.

ME Capstone Course and Lab Project Development Director
Jeff is the ME Capstone Course and Lab Projects Development Director at Stanford, where he brings his 25-year industry experience to the role. He is responsible for the ongoing strategy, design, curriculum plan and instruction plans for capstone courses in the Mechanical Engineering Department, as part of a broad effort to redesign the curriculum requirements for the undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Jeff has over twenty years’ product development and manufacturing experience bringing medical and consumer products to market, through the course of my career journey with Apple, SGI, Nektar, Boston Scientific and Amazon/Lab126. In addition to working with and training engineers in industry, his 9+ years coaching and teaching students in science and sports provide an excellent foundation for educating engineers to make a difference in the world.

Specialties: Leading organizations to deliver innovative, thoughtful products; thorough understanding of design/development process; GMPs; Design Controls; risk-based design and assessments; end-user usability; design and manufacturing processes; efficiency metrics/improvements.

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The 2020-21 academic year marks the fourth of our university’s redesigned mechanical engineering capstone course sequence—and also the fourth in which we will partner with a campus Research Institute and external NGO to address post-harvest agricultural challenges that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities in developing countries. Student teams explore the needs of the users, and look to understand the cultural and societal context for the projects. Student outcomes are targeted in accordance with ABET requirements for baccalaureate degree programs and emphasize application of mechanical engineering skills, design, communication, testing, and teamwork. The long-term community partner relationship facilitates continuity of learning as students build on work completed by earlier teams, refining design concepts while tackling new challenges. The course has also provided opportunities for students to continue their work over the summer and after graduation. One example project sequence includes developing a structure to enable thermal storage for rapid produce drying (Year 1), airflow optimization within the structure (Year 2), measurement of produce quality, irrigation systems (Year 3), and blanching to speed the drying process (Year 4). Designs consider systems developed by previous students; as an example, the irrigation system designed in Year 3 uses water from the Year 1 thermal storage tank and delivers water via the racking system developed in Year 2. We are working in close partnership with our University’s Center for Public Service and Office of Community Engaged Learning to build both an educational program and research agenda that emphasize the value of reciprocity, partnership, reflection, evaluation, and respect for diversity. In this paper, we present the lessons learned from our first four years, including assessment of our partnership model, impact on our community partner, and contributions to our institution’s research.

Cohen, S., & Wood, J. (2021, July), Engagement in Practice: Creating an Enduring Partnership in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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