Asee peer logo

Forming And Managing Project Teams In A Large Capstone Design Course

Download Paper |


2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Teams and Teamwork in Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.637.1 - 14.637.23



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Edward Lumsdaine Michigan Technological University


Josh Loukus Michigan Technological University

visit author page

Dr. Josh Loukus is co-owner, president and CEO of REL, Inc., a manufacturer of robotics and automated quality control systems. He received his PhD in ceramics processing and machining from Michigan Technical University in 2000. As instructor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at MTU, he was inducted into the university’s distinguished teaching academy. Dr. Loukus developed the ceramic drum and rotor inserts for patented lightweight brakes, and his expertise is in design for manufacturing, vertical integration and machine design. His multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving has resulted in the invention of innovative process deployment (IPD) to maximize efficiency and synergy in a complete product development team.

visit author page


Jason Dreyer Michigan Technological University

visit author page

Jason T. Dreyer is currently a doctoral student and part-time instructor at Michigan Tech. In Spring 2009, he will receive his PhD in mechanical engineering from MTU, with a focus on speech intelligibility. He received his BSME in 2003 and his MSME in 2007, both from MTU. He has been a graduate teaching assistant for both graduate and undergraduate courses, including capstone design. His technical expertise includes time series analysis, experimental design and optimization, innovative signal processing, manufacturing process modeling and control, modal analysis and acoustics, and speech intelligibility.

visit author page


Steve Chenoweth Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

visit author page

Dr. Steve Chenoweth is Associate Professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Previously, he was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories, where he led teams in reviews of projects and taught courses in design and creativity to newly forming teams. At NCR Corporation he was a manager and consulting analyst in software development projects. He has a PhD in Computer Science and Engineering from Wright State University, Dayton, OH and has attended HBDI workshops.

visit author page


Monika Lumsdaine E&M Lumsdaine Solar Consultants, Inc.

visit author page

Monika Lumsdaine is management consultant for corporate behavior, with a B.S. degree in mathematics. She won a national design award for the design of a passive solar home from DOE/HUD. She has extensive technical writing experience in solar energy, product quality, and engineering design, including co-authoring several textbooks. She is a certified HBDI practitioner (Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument) and conducts team building workshops in industry, business, and educational institutions. Contact info:

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Forming and Managing Project Teams in Large Capstone Design Courses


ABET and most companies recruiting new engineers expect graduating seniors to have teamwork and leadership experience and skills. In capstone design, good teamwork is closely connected to attaining an optimal design project solution. However, good teamwork does not happen automatically. This paper describes our approach at Michigan Technological University (MTU) with large classes of 100-150 students. The focus of the paper is on three key items: (1) forming balanced project teams; (2) monitoring team dynamics and development, and (3) evaluating each team’s technical progress through a design review panel. Results show that our processes are transferable and significantly decreased the occurrence of dysfunctional project teams; they have also resulted in increasingly successful project outcomes.

I. Introduction

Background The two-semester capstone design course in the Mechanical Engineering Department was taught for many years by different professors, but little documentation existed in terms of successes and challenges, particularly in the area on how to improve teamwork. A design committee influenced the direction of the course. However, the committee members were caught in a campus culture that for years was risk-averse and lacked a global vision for engineering education. Capstone course outcomes were very uneven, ranging from award-winning teams to dysfunctional teams producing hurried, mediocre, and superficial project results.

Change was introduced in 2004 with a pilot capstone design course taught in a distance learning format.1 With new members on the design committee, changes were implemented to ensure that graduating seniors had a solid capstone design experience. Initially, the emphasis was on teaching creative problem solving as foundation to conceptual design .2 Next, the focus was on improving design communication and report documentation, as well as on making the logistics more manageable for large classes exceeding 100 students in twenty projects or more.3 These improvements occurred within the context of better teamwork and project outcomes.

Motivation and Stakeholders In addition to technical competence, employers recruiting engineers expect graduating seniors to have teamwork and leadership experience and skills. These “soft” competencies ideally are honed through participating in a capstone design project. In capstone design, good teamwork is closely linked to an optimal design project outcome. However, good teamwork does not happen on its own; neither does the development of leadership skills. Our teambuilding effort in the 2007/08 academic year focused on team formation and development. In the 2008/09 academic year, the process was used by a different instructor whose primary goal was to better match student capabilities with project requirements. The same doctoral student assisted both instructors. For 2009/10, the process will be enhanced by using team management software discovered through benchmarking capstone design at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Lumsdaine, E., & Loukus, J., & Dreyer, J., & Chenoweth, S., & Lumsdaine, M. (2009, June), Forming And Managing Project Teams In A Large Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4892

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015