Asee peer logo

Improving The Professional Skills Of Engineering Graduate Students Through Capstone Project Mentoring In Ieworks

Download Paper |


2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Mentoring Graduate Students for Success

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.645.1 - 7.645.19



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Steven Beyerlein

author page

Robert Drew

author page

Matthew Walker

author page

Karl Rink

author page

Dan Gerbus

author page

Dan Cordon

author page

Edwin Odom

Download Paper |

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

Main Menu Session 2555

Improving the Professional Skills of Engineering Graduate Students through Capstone Project Mentoring in IEWorks

Dan Gerbus, Dan Cordon, Matthew Walker, Robert Drew, Edwin Odom, Steven Beyerlein, Karl Rink University of Idaho Mechanical Engineering


Traditional engineering graduate programs focus on coursework and thesis research, which may or may not adequately develop students’ professional skills for engineering positions in industry. This paper describes an alternative graduate program developed at the University of Idaho called the Idaho Engineering Works (IEWorks). IEWorks is focused on developing leadership, creativity, communication, and time management skills in addition to traditional course and thesis work. This paper compares the IEWorks experience to other student experiences using surveys of current and future graduate students, alumni, and faculty. The results of the surveys suggest the increased workload in IEWorks interferes with thesis research and coursework. However, the data also suggests the professional skills developed in the program are highly valued by the majority of the graduates and offset the additional workload.


With downsizing, the growing global marketplace, and faster new product releases, competitive corporations have to become more efficient and flexible. In order for the corporation to be efficient, its employees must operate efficiently. In response to this movement, academia is being asked to take more responsibility in the overall development of engineers beyond technical skills.1,2 Academia is changing undergraduate curriculums to address these issues.3 However, graduate programs also need to change to accommodate the changing industrial demands.

Typical graduate programs in engineering are organized into functional areas similar to the traditional corporate business structures. In mechanical engineering, these functional areas include thermodynamics and solid mechanics. Graduate research groups are generally associated with a particular functional area. Studies have shown this structure inhibits innovation and efficiency.4,5,6,7 Several researchers have proposed using a cross functional structure where the team members have varying backgrounds and expertise. Ideally these backgrounds should be from across the spectrum of disciplines. This diversity provides various perspectives that aid in stimulating innovation and promoting efficiency in additional to having expertise in nearly all areas that pertain to the project.

In order to be competitive, engineers must possess skills above and beyond technical skills. Valenti has surveyed firms and academia in mechanical engineering and compiled a list of desired skills1 for entry-level engineers. Table 1 lists the top ten skills for entry-level engineers

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education

Main Menu

Beyerlein, S., & Drew, R., & Walker, M., & Rink, K., & Gerbus, D., & Cordon, D., & Odom, E. (2002, June), Improving The Professional Skills Of Engineering Graduate Students Through Capstone Project Mentoring In Ieworks Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10229

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2002 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015