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Enhancement Of Capstone Industry Sponsored Senior Projects Through Team Based, Product Realization Activities

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Capstone Design II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.534.1 - 13.534.10



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Paper Authors


James Widmann California Polytechnic State University

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Jim Widmann is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic
State University, San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. in 1994 from Stanford University.
Currently he teaches mechanics and design courses. He conducts research in the areas of design
optimization, machine design, fluid power control and engineering education.

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

Enhancement of Capstone Industry Sponsored Senior Projects Through Team-Based, Product Realization Activities


Senior capstone design courses are critical components of undergraduate education and satisfy many requirements set forth by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). In 2005, the faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, enhanced their capstone senior design and senior project experiences of their mechanical engineering students by developing a new industry- sponsored, Project-Based Learning course. Previously, students undertook individual senior projects of their own choosing as well as a one quarter industry sponsored course that resulted in a paper design. In this new two quarter senior project experience, small groups of students work together in teams on real-world, externally sponsored projects that result in testable hardware. During the first quarter, students working in teams design a new product, process, or system. During the second quarter, the students build and test their design. The students go from design to product and in the process complete their capstone experience. This new approach allows for the complete engineering process to be pursued.

This new hardware intensive capstone experience must support approximately 190 undergraduates each year. Hardware construction is supported by an extensive Mechanical Engineering Student Projects Center and a newly built, college-wide Bonderson Engineering Projects Center. Both facilities are dedicated to Project Based Learning. The new facility will serve as design and fabrication space to encourage multidisciplinary industry sponsored projects. The intent of the curriculum change is give graduating engineers a better understanding of engineering practice. This capstone model is currently being adopted by the entire college to support Multidisciplinary Project-Based Learning. This paper provides a description of the curriculum change, the necessary logistical support and the methodology of assessing student outcomes.


California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) was founded in 1903 and is one of 23 campuses of the California State University (CSU) System. Cal Poly is primarily an undergraduate institution with approximately 19,500 enrolled undergraduates and 1180 faculty. 5000 students are enrolled in the College of Engineering which is comprised of nine departments. The largest department, Mechanical Engineering, has approximately 1000 undergraduates, 40 Masters students, and 23 full time tenure and tenure track faculty. The department awards about 190 undergraduate degrees each year.

University-Wide Senior Project All students at Cal Poly are required to complete a Senior Project1. For over 40 years and up until the spring of 2005, the Mechanical Engineering department’s requirements for Senior Project included a five-unit experience over two quarters involving the design, build and test of

Widmann, J. (2008, June), Enhancement Of Capstone Industry Sponsored Senior Projects Through Team Based, Product Realization Activities Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4412

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