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Improving Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Projects With Cooperative Learning In The Medi Fridge Project

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Design in BME Poster Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.855.1 - 12.855.9



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Paper Authors


David McStravick Rice University

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DAVID MCSTRAVICK received his B. S. and Ph. D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Rice University. He worked in industry for many years in various engineering research positions. He joined Rice University in 1996 and is currently a Professor in the Practice of Mechanical Engineering in the MEMS Department. He teaches in the area of engineering design and his current research interests are in medical product design and in engineering education.

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Marcia O'Mallley Rice University

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MARCIA O’MALLEY received the B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1996, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1999 and 2001. In 2001 she joined the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department at Rice University, where she is currently an Assistant Professor. Her current research interests include robotics, mechatronics, and engineering education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Improving Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Projects with Cooperative Learning in the Medi-Fridge Project

Abstract As research at many institutions becomes more and more interdisciplinary, there is a desire to incorporate such themes into the undergraduate curriculum, specifically by offering interdisciplinary capstone design experiences to senior-level students. At Rice University, faculty responsible for capstone design have found it increasingly challenging to make such experiences beneficial to students, since much knowledge needs to be gained at the intersections of the disciplines. This must usually occur throughout the design process and is specific to a given project. The result has historically been “division of labor”, where students more comfortable with given aspects of a project take ownership of those portions, while the other students are typically unwilling to acquire the “new” knowledge related to the project. In an attempt to reverse this trend and have more beneficial interdisciplinary design experiences for our students, our mechanical engineering and materials science program has adopted principles of cooperative learning to improve team performance, increase knowledge acquired, and promote truly interactive experiences in the capstone design course. This paper will highlight the revisions to the course and will use one project (the Medi-Fridge) as a case study for the effectiveness of these implementations.

As an example project for these course revisions, this year a group of senior engineering students (three mechanical engineering and two electrical engineering students) worked on a method to keep medication cool for extended periods of time. This capstone team has developed designs which will provide a solution applicable in many instances and locals. More and more medicines are being developed that allow patients with serious diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, aids, etc. to live longer and in many cases fuller lives. A common thread among these medicines is that most of them must be kept cool until they are used. The refrigeration requirement can be a serious problem in third world countries and serious inconvenience in the United States or other developed country for people that need/want to travel for some period of time. This project has all the capstone design requirements, but also has the strong motivation of helping people that suffer from life threatening and debilitating diseases.

Introduction Seniors at our institution are required to take a capstone design course when pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. In recent years, the course instructors have attempted to offer increasingly interdisciplinary projects, and have recruited students from other departments (bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering) to form interdisciplinary teams to tackle these topics. The capstone course is designed to allow the students to use their undergraduate course work in a practical application project. There are various topics available to the students and range from competitive industry sponsored projects to medical related projects.

As the number of interdisciplinary projects has increased over the years, we have seen a trend of increasing interest in such projects, increasing need for new knowledge throughout the project

McStravick, D., & O'Mallley, M. (2007, June), Improving Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Projects With Cooperative Learning In The Medi Fridge Project Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2407

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