June 15, 1997
June 15, 1997
June 18, 1997
2.198.1 - 2.198.4
Field Session at Colorado School of Mines A Capstone Applied Mathematics/Computer Science Course
Barbara Blake Bath Colorado School of Mines
Each student at the Colorado School of Mines completes “Field Session” as one of the graduation requirements. In Chemical Engineering, the students do unit operations labs, in Petroleum Engineering, they get hands on experience in petroleum extraction, in Civil Engineering, they learn to survey, and in Mining Engineering, they actually work in the school’s experimental mine. In the Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, the students tackle mathematics or computer problems. This six hour course is taken at the conclusion of the junior year. The only prerequisite is the completion of a programming course. Field session is designed so that students will apply the knowledge and skills which they have learned in their three years of study to the solution of a real problem for a real client. Getting the scope of the problem is often difficult for the students as they have never dealt with a problem which took all of their time for this long a period. Students are expected to treat this course as a forty hour per week job for the six week session although many students spend more than the forty hours per week. Communication skills, both oral and written, are a major part of the course. The students must apply their knowledge, be able to work in teams, communicate, manage a project and their time, and think independently.
Securing Projects: The projects may come from either faculty members or off campus contacts which may be interested in sponsoring such a project. Early in the Spring semester, the instructor will request such input. Usually there are more requests for projects than there are students to work on them. Some students have contacts for summer jobs which they want to use for field session, but this experience must be more than just a summer job. Each such request is handled on a case by case basis to insure students get the full benefit of completing a design project.
Characteristics of Projects: Each project must be clearly defined and doable in a six week time frame. The project needs a clear beginning and end, but it may be part of a larger problem. Clients are important as they simulate what happens in the real world and are more likely to give students problems which are open-ended. Students must produce a product which satisfies the client. That experience of not having a correct answer is valuable. Also, working with a client to define the scope of the problem aids the student in setting up a strategy to satisfy the requirements. The client must guarantee that appropriate resources are readily available. If a student needs additional help, he must be able to obtain it easily. Students are amazingly resourceful when they have a clear cut goal. It is difficult to make-up problems which are as realistic as cliented projects. Letting students choose the project which they want to do is more likely to bring satisfaction to the student and the client.
Student Criteria for “good” projects: Some students like to work on projects which give them a chance to learn a skill they want to learn. Others like projects which are theoretical, for example, one project involved doing fractal analysis for oil well drilling. Some projects involve
Bath, B. B. (1997, June), Field Session At Colorado School Of Mines A Capstone Applied Mathematics/Computer Science Course Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. https://peer.asee.org/6570
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