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Industry Based Capstone Design Projects: You Can't Sell The Solution If You Can't Communicate

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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

IE Curriculum Design

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.888.1 - 12.888.12



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Paper Authors


Joseph Emanuel Bradley University

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Joseph T. Emanuel hold a BS in Math from the University if New Mexico and MS and PhD degrees in Engineering Psychology from The Ohio State University. He is Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology. He has coordinated the IMET Department capstone design course since 1975. Among his awards are both the Engineering College and the University awards for teaching and the University award for public service. He also has received the student senate award for academic advising.

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H. Dan Kerns Bradley University

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Dan Kerns hold BS and MS degrees in Speech Communication from Indisna State University and a PhD in Radio and Television Communication from Norther Illinois University. He has been a speech coach for the IMET Department's capstone design course for the past 17 yers.

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

Industry Based Capstone Design Projects: You Can’t Sell the Solution If You Can’t Communicate


Industry-based capstone design projects have been used by Industrial Engineering departments since the 1960’s. The format for the project varies from institution to institution. In some cases, a course in simulation or facility layout may be the “project course”, while in other institutions a separate one or two semester course may be devoted to the capstone project. One of the constant considerations in all industry-based capstone projects is the need for the project team to clearly communicate their results to the client in writing and orally. A team may have a good solution to the client’s problem, but the quality of the written and oral presentations to the client may lack the professionalism that is required to convince the client of its validity. This paper presents an approach to improving oral communication skills using an evaluation tool that identifies potential areas for improvement. Examples of some final presentations that have resulted from this approach are included.


An ability to communicate effectively is ABET criteria (g.) for all programs accredited by ABET-EAC1. Managers rated the “ability to communicate ideas and plans effectively in front of an audience” as the most important career skill2. Recognizing the importance of good oral communication skills and actually putting good oral communication skills into practice are not synonymous. How often have you watched a presentation given by a professional engineer that consisted of words copied from a written report? The speaker may have included a graph or a chart, but most of the presentation consisted of words that you could read in the report. Furthermore, the presenter often turns his back to the audience and reads the screen to the audience. Although this is a common occurrence, it is not effective oral communication.

As stated by Burnett2, an oral presentation can have several purposes: inform, persuade, demonstrate, and train. These can occur separately or in combination. Every presentation should include these major points: purpose statement, outline, preview of the presentation, clear transitions, periodic summaries, emphasis and examples for particularly important points, and a conclusion that reviews the major points and indicates the preferred action of the audience. Burnett also states that “Visuals are extremely valuable during an oral presentation. Visuals that illustrate or reinforce your information can increase most people’s retention by approximately 20 percent.”

A review of the ASEE proceedings from the past 8 years reveals a large number of articles that address oral technical communications. Among the more significant approaches to help capstone design students become good technical communicators are the efforts at Georgia Tech3 and at Utah4. Louisiana State has made a significant effort to integrate oral communications into the entire engineering college5. To support these efforts, the institutions usually employ one or more full-time staff or faculty members who are communication specialists. At smaller institutions, lack of resources may prevent engineering colleges from hiring such individuals. In

Emanuel, J., & Kerns, H. D. (2007, June), Industry Based Capstone Design Projects: You Can't Sell The Solution If You Can't Communicate Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2705

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: © 2007 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