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Improving Performance And Reducing Professor Workload In A Capstone Design Class Using Project Management Software

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.737.1 - 11.737.8



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Paper Authors


Kelley Racicot Washington State University

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Graduate Assistant, Center for Teaching and Learning Technology, and an M.A. candidate in the Dept. of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education at Washington State University. She received her B.S.M.E., Washington State University in 1993

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Charles Pezeshki Washington State University

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Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University, Associate Director of the School, and Director of the Industrial Design Clinic. He is also heavily involved in Washington State University governance, and is Chair-Elect of the WSU Faculty Senate.

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

Improving Performance and Reducing Professor Workload In a Capstone Design Class using Project Management Software


In the past ten years, many varieties of Project Management (PM) software have become available, most notably Microsoft Project. However, such software can be difficult to implement, requiring dedicated time from an IT professional, and a server that also requires maintenance. Further, the instruction burden of delivering software skills to students coming into the course adds another hurdle that must be overcome each semester. All this adds up to enough institutional and educational friction that doing electronic project management is usually foregone.

In this paper, the authors explore and develop an approach that abolishes all of these problems, by using a Web-based platform that can also serve e-portfolio needs. The commercial product selected for experimentation is called Basecamp, and has the advantages of being web-based, easy-to-learn with a relatively complete feature set, and is available for a nominal monthly fee. Basecamp also provides an archival record of class activity that can be used for accreditation purposes, and as such, serves as an assessment tool for the Capstone experience. The software offers project sponsors an opportunity to participate easily with helping students manage schedule and timing of deliverables, and serves as a platform for discussing student performance and work habits over time.

Evaluation of student Basecamp performance is done in a variety of ways. Average frequency of student entries vs. promptings by the class professor is plotted, and other measures of interaction frequency are explored. Additionally, students are interviewed at the end of the semester for their views and reflections on the utility and ease of use of the software.


In order to fulfill ABET certification requirements, a Senior Capstone Design class must be taught that integrates students’ experiences gained over an entire course of study in the mechanical engineering discipline. The design and management of the class, including structured fundraising, was discussed in detail in the paper presented in the 2004 ASEE conference proceedings, titled “Managing a Capstone Design Clinic—Strategies for Pedagogic and Financial Success.”1

To recap, the basic structure of the class is as follows: over the course of a semester, students must complete a deliverable paid for by an industrial sponsor who serves first as a customer, and secondarily as a mentor for a group of 4-6 students. For each project, the group must:

1. Visit the company, tour the facilities and discuss the project and deliverables with the industrial sponsor.

Racicot, K., & Pezeshki, C. (2006, June), Improving Performance And Reducing Professor Workload In A Capstone Design Class Using Project Management Software Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--206

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