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Enhancing Communication Skills In Senior Design Capstone Projects

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.451.1 - 6.451.8



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Karen Davis

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

Session 2525

Enhancing Communication Skills in Senior Design Capstone Projects

Karen C. Davis University of Cincinnati

I. Introduction

Most engineering faculty would acknowledge that engineering students do not enjoy writing while at the same time agree that writing skills are tremendously important to the practicing engineer. ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 includes demonstration of communication skills; feedback from industry employers indicates that this is even more important than technical skills1. The senior capstone experience provides an excellent opportunity for polishing written and oral communication skills in a manner that is both palatable and successful for engineering students. We are taking advantage of this opportunity in our senior design sequence at the University of Cincinnati in the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science department. Historically, each senior project was supervised by a faculty member with appropriate technical expertise. All students shared common reporting requirements due at the end of each term. The quality between projects varied greatly and seniors expressed dissatisfaction with inconsistent levels of interaction and feedback from faculty advisors. In order to address both weaknesses, several curriculum modifications were initiated in the Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Engineering (CompE) senior capstone courses in Fall 1999. The improvements include a regular weekly class meeting guided by senior advisors (one EE and one CompE professor), emphasis on team projects, and systematic and incremental writing deadlines.

The Fall term is now devoted to the formation of teams and the writing of a complete design report. A rigorous schedule of due dates allows feedback on writing as well as content. The weekly writing assignments include requirements, specifications, multiple levels of design diagrams, a task/effort matrix, a task timeline, and a testing plan; additional writing assignments include a statement of how ABET concerns such as health, safety, ethics, social impact, and economics are addressed by the project, as well as a self-evaluation. In the self-evaluation, students reflect on how their mandatory co-op experience, as well as their course work, have prepared them to undertake the project. Project implementation and oral status reports take place in the Winter quarter. In the Spring term, testing, refinement, writing final evaluations, and presentation at a senior forum are done.

The important curriculum innovation is that the students usually do not write more than a page or two for any weekly assignment, yet when assembled the individual assignments form a complete

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Davis, K. (2001, June), Enhancing Communication Skills In Senior Design Capstone Projects Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9215

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