June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Design in Engineering Education
14.637.1 - 14.637.23
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.
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. https://peer.asee.org/4892
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