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Full Paper: Industry Engagement versus Faculty Mentorship in Engineering Senior Capstone Design Courses

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Proceedings of the 2020 ASEE PSW Section Conference, canceled


Davis, California

Publication Date

April 30, 2020

Start Date

April 30, 2020

End Date

October 10, 2020

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Christine E King University of California, Irvine

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Dr. Christine King is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UC Irvine. She received her BS and MS from Manhattan College in Mechanical Engineering and her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from UC Irvine, where she developed brain-computer interface systems for neurorehabilitation. She was a post-doctorate in the Wireless Health Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a research manager in the Center for SMART Health, where she focused on wireless health monitoring for stroke and pediatric asthma. Her current research is on engineering education, specializing in pedagogy strategies to promote learning in design-build-test courses, including senior design, computer programming, and computer-aided-design courses.

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The senior design capstone course is an important experience for engineering undergraduate students. This course prepares students for industry by having students solve open-ended real-world problems. During the course, a student team defines a problem, plans an approach, develops a solution, and validates their solution, which culminates in oral and written dissemination. Typically, undergraduate programs have provided students with faculty mentors to develop a solution for a specific project. In order for projects and teams to be successful, the mentors must provide invaluable support, collaboration, and interest in the success of the project. However, these mentors do not always identify appropriate projects that meet ABET guidelines, as this can be difficult without support from industry sponsors and other outside mentorship.

The purpose of this study is to examine whether industry sponsorship versus faculty mentorship based projects provide adequate support for senior capstone student teams. To this end, the following research questions are posed: 1) what are the differences between mentorship guidance, availability, and student success in senior capstone courses for projects that are led by industry sponsors versus faculty mentors? 2) How do the identification of projects in industry sponsored versus faculty mentored projects align with ABET guidelines?

In a highest-research level R1 university, 147 undergraduate seniors in biomedical engineering and materials science programs were placed in teams of 5-6 students and assigned to either industry sponsored or faculty mentored projects. Out of these projects, 19 teams were assigned to faculty mentored projects and 11 teams were assigned to industry sponsored projects. A student survey was provided to assess the level of meeting availability for guidance, equipment and fabrication support, as well as level of support provided by the mentors. In addition, a mentor survey was used to assess whether the industry and faculty sponsors utilized ABET guidelines that are typically assessed during a senior design course. It was found from the student surveys that both industry and faculty mentors provided adequate availability for guidance, and fabrication and support throughout the project. However, meeting availability and guidance of direction on their project was lower in students with industry mentors compared to faculty mentors. Furthermore, the instructional team of capstone courses should help further design industry mentored projects to include more open-ended problems and incorporate broader design constraints, as these ABET requirements were not as well met in industry mentored projects. Despite these shortcomings, the industry sponsored projects and mentors provided adequate guidance and preparation of sills for students, and should be incorporated in engineering capstone courses.

King, C. E. (2020, April), Full Paper: Industry Engagement versus Faculty Mentorship in Engineering Senior Capstone Design Courses Paper presented at Proceedings of the 2020 ASEE PSW Section Conference, canceled, Davis, California.

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