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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. https://peer.asee.org/40775
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