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This paper explores the implementation of project management elements (PME) in a three-semester capstone course sequence. Following an entrepreneurial model, multidisciplinary teams of four or five students work on an engineering project of their choice, which involves design, fabrication, and testing. Teams are required to submit weekly PME designed based on an agile workflow. These submissions include weekly individual reports and team meeting minutes, documents similar to those that students can expect to use as working professionals or to manage their projects as part of an entrepreneurial start-up company.
Consulting engineering firms frequently require their employees to track work hours to appropriately bill clients and hold their workers accountable for their time. This structure inspired weekly individual reports for students working on senior capstone teams. The PME foment an entrepreneurial mindset by facilitating students’ ability, every single week, to recognize and identify opportunities, focus on the impact of their work, and create value for their project team. The individual reports include the number of hours spent on the project, tasks completed over the past week, work products, and tasks assigned for the upcoming week. Team meeting minutes include the time, date, and location of the group’s meeting, a meeting agenda, old business, new business, and a summary of discussion and decisions. The team meeting minutes also include peer-to-peer assessment of each member’s weekly performance in several categories. Consequently, team members use the PME structure to hold each other accountable. Continued low performance on PME can substantially reduce capstone grades for individual students.
PME provide students with a framework to work as professionals and, therefore, manage their teams effectively with minimal intervention from advisors. These skills are essential to supporting an entrepreneurial mindset. Students use PME to document problems such as lack of participation or limited contributions by a team member, allowing for earlier intervention, if necessary. Over the past several years, the evolving use of PME has resulted in improved productivity and less team conflict, as evidenced by peer evaluation metrics (from CATME). Also, instructors report reduced time assessing individual contributions.
Enabling students to complete their capstone projects while developing their project and team management skills provides a critical foundation for their professional lives. Alumni report how the senior capstone experience best prepared them for their working lives, even more so than their technical courses.
Batista Abreu, J., & Degoede, K., & Estrada, T., & Read-Daily, B. (2022, August), Implementation of Industry-Inspired Project Management Elements in an Entrepreneurial Capstone Sequence Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/40795
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