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Increasing Student Learning via an Innovative Capstone Program

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone and International Experiences

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.768.1 - 25.768.8



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Paper Authors


Scott Danielson Arizona State University, Polytechnic

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Scott Danielson is the Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University. Before assuming that role, he had been the Interim Chair of Engineering Department and the Chair of the Engineering Technology Department. He has been active in ASEE in the Mechanics Division and the Engineering Technology Division. He has also been active in ASME, being awarded the 2009 Ben C. Sparks Medal for excellence in mechanical engineering technology education, serving as a member of the Vision 2030 Task Force, serving as Chair of the Committee on Engineering Technology Accreditation, serving on the Board of Directors of the ASME Center for Education, and serving as a member of the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Head Committee. He has been a Program Evaluator for both the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and ASME and currently serves on the Technology Accreditation Council (TAC) of ABET, representing ASME. He also serves on the SME’s Manufacturing Education and Research Community steering committee. Before joining ASU, he had been at North Dakota State University, where he was a faculty member in the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department. His research interests include machining, effective teaching, and engineering mechanics. Before coming to academia, he was a Design Engineer, Maintenance Supervisor, and Plant Engineer. He is a registered Professional Engineer.

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Chell A. Roberts Arizona State University, Polytechnic

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Chell Roberts is the Executive Dean and former Chair of Engineering for the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University. As Executive Dean, he serves as the College’s Chief Operating Officer. As the Founding Chair of Engineering, Roberts led a clean slate design and development of a new engineering program created to be responsive to the latest knowledge on engineering education. He is currently leading the development of highly innovative programs at the intersection of traditional disciplines for a new college model that brings together engineering, science and business in a multi-disciplinary fashion focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship. The newly developed curricular model is studio based and highly flexible. As part of the program development, Roberts has created a corporate partners program that has resulted in a high level of industry leadership and funding of multidisciplinary senior projects. Roberts received a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Virginia Tech, a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Utah, and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Utah. Roberts has published more than 70 technical articles, has guided more than $2 million of research, provided consulting services to many companies, and served on many national conference organization committees, national review boards, and technical committees. Roberts’s primary research and teaching interests are in the area of engineering education, computer simulation, and manufacturing automation.

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Increasing Student Learning Via An Innovative Capstone ProgramIntroductionThis innovative capstone program is anchored by a two-semester multidisciplinarycomprehensive project experience. Students from a variety of programs, mostly engineering-based but not exclusively so, are involved. A primary objective of the capstone sequence is toprovide, in a project setting, an educational experience consistent with professional practice.Thus, the curricular design is consistent with recommendations from several recent engineeringeducational studies, including Sheppard, S. et al. (2009) and Duderstadt (2008). Both of thesereports strongly urge the adoption of curricular mechanisms that include practice-likeexperiences, including both analysis and design, within more practice-based degree programs.An earlier report, “Educating the Engineer of 2020” (2005), called for a pedagogical approachmore similar to that used in medicine and law, e.g., “it is essential that the engineering professionadopt a structured approach to lifelong learning for practicing engineers similar to those inmedicine and law.”The Capstone Project Structure and ValueTo provide an educational experience consistent with professional practice, we have developedan industry-sponsored professional practice capstone program. Working with industry projectsponsors, we solicit open-ended design problems relevant to their business goals. Some sponsorsuse these projects as a mechanism to evaluate potential new technologies and applications.Others explore new markets by having student attempt to use the company’s technologies in newapplications. And for a few companies, the projects represent an opportunity to invest in highereducation. One to two faculty advisors are involved with each student team, in addition to thesponsor’s engineering liaison, but the conduct of the project is the responsibility of the studentteam. At the start of the semester, the program’s leaders execute a process to staff themultidisciplinary project teams with the specific skills, e.g., various student majors, needed tosuccessfully complete the projects.Each project has a team of four to eight students from various majors work on designing andimplementing a solution. These projects require the design and development of a workingprototype, a prototype that is professional in character. Typically, the first semester is focusedon the team completing a rigorous design process, involving establishing the problem statement,generation and evaluation of criteria, constraints, feasible solutions, and selection of the bestdesign solution. The second semester is focused on the final detailed design and thedevelopment of the prototype.Each sponsor provides a key stakeholder that functions as the project liaison and that the liaisonmeet with the team weekly (face to face or through virtual meetings). We believe students dotheir best, and receive the most educational benefits, when they are working with an industrycustomer and are working to meet the needs and demands of that customer.Additional explanation and description of the process of forming the teams and their functioningare described in the full paper. Assessment data are included that illustrate the increased learningand enhanced educational experience of the students due to this methodology. Also, favorablecomments from industry representatives are included.

Danielson, S., & Roberts, C. A. (2012, June), Increasing Student Learning via an Innovative Capstone Program Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21525

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