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From Problem to Project: An Entrepreneurial Model for a Three-Semester Multidisciplinary Capstone Sequence

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Brenda Read-Daily Elizabethtown College

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Dr. Read-Daily is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Elizabethtown College. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Bradley University and Masters and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Read-Daily teaches in the first-year as well as upper-level multidisciplinary and environmental engineering courses. She currently serves as the Engineering Program Director for her department.

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Tomas Estrada Elizabethtown College

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Tomás Estrada, Associate Professor of Engineering

Dr. Estrada received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Universidad de Costa Rica in 2002, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2005, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, also from the University of Notre Dame, in 2009.

Dr. Estrada firmly believes the faculty member needs to be a well-rounded teacher-scholar. He is deeply committed to fostering multi-disciplinary and holistic thinking in his students and to exemplifying it through his own scholarly work. His main research focus is Engineering Education. In particular, as an engineer, interdisciplinary thinker, and mindfulness practitioner, Dr Estrada is fascinated by the interconnections between technical content and our personal experiences. Hisresearch focuses on teaching and learning. In particular, Dr Estrada explores the design of classroom activities and course structures where students can develop synergies between mindful, personal experiences and course-specific technical topics, such as control systems or telecommunications.

Dr. Estrada explains his approach to teaching by using concepts from engineering, presenting the educational process as a feedback control system. From this perspective, one can visualize the value of constant improvement, effective communication, robustness and flexibility, as well as holistic thinking in education. Dr. Estrada hopes his enthusiasm and commitment to his teaching vision will allow him to help his students develop not just into better professionals, but into more insightful thinkers and more well-rounded people.

Outside of engineering, Dr. Estrada enjoys writing novels, singing at karaoke, traveling, watching/playing sports, and hosting Trivia Nights for his students.

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Kurt Degoede Elizabethtown College

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Dr. DeGoede has focused his research on multidisciplinary biomechanics projects. He has also developed a study abroad program in West Africa built around collaborative social enterprise projects. An innovative educator, Dr. DeGoede has published several papers on teaching methods in engineering mechanics and capstone projects. He has presented Mastery-Based Learning workshops at ASEE for several colleges and universities.

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Jean Batista Abreu Elizabethtown College

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This paper explores the evolution of a novel three-semester multidisciplinary capstone project where students work on teams of four or five team members to pitch and develop an entrepreneurial design of their choice. In the first semester, the spring of their junior year, students apply the engineering design process to explore a problem of their interest. Over this semester, each team crafts a problem statement, conducts market research, creates detailed specifications, performs a feasibility study, evaluates alternative approaches, and pitches their idea to a panel of peers and faculty advisors. The teams also write a series of project reports, and a panel of faculty advisors evaluates and provides detailed feedback on these reports. The capstone sequence is inspired by an entrepreneurial funding model, so student teams are guaranteed a set minimum amount of funds and compete for shares of a finite pool of additional funds. Occasionally, teams determine that their proposal is not feasible within the constraints of the capstone and, as a result, may opt to change their project over the summer between the junior and senior years. In the senior year, the same student teams conduct engineering analysis, complete detailed designs, fabricate their products, and perform testing and analysis. Over the course of this academic year, teams submit five specific progress reports addressing each process stage, in addition to a final comprehensive report. Teams may use their approved budget to purchase items for their project totaling less than $50 and must complete formal Design Reviews to purchase items costing more than $50, request additional funds, or sign up to work in the fabrication facility. Faculty mentors, in collaboration with the Director of the Fabrication Lab, conduct design reviews to ensure students have completed the necessary analysis to justify moving forward. At the end of the senior fall semester, students present their project ideas again, showcasing their progress over two semesters, providing an update of their spending report, and pitching for additional funds. In the spring semester, students finish their fabrication and testing and present a poster of the final design at a college-wide scholarship day (mini-conference). The results of this innovative approach include training students toward developing an entrepreneurial mindset. The three-semester sequence models the entire design process, from identifying a gap in a market to delivering a functional prototype. The competitive funding model has led to higher quality engineering analysis, less material and fiscal waste, and increased opportunities for students to convey technical details in oral presentations. The entrepreneurial approach, checkpoints, and accountability structures has resulted in a more robust and meaningful student experience.

Read-Daily, B., & Estrada, T., & Degoede, K., & Batista Abreu, J. (2022, August), From Problem to Project: An Entrepreneurial Model for a Three-Semester Multidisciplinary Capstone Sequence Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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: © 2022 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