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Integrating Project Management, Product Development, And Senior Capstone Into A Course Sequence That Creates New Products And Patents For Students

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Industry Collaborations in Engineering Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.765.1 - 14.765.11



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Paper Authors

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Phillip Sanger Western Carolina University

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Chip Ferguson Western Carolina University

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Wesley Stone Western Carolina University

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

Integrating Project Management, Product Development and Senior Capstone into a Course Sequence that Creates New Products and Patents for Students


The competitive pressures of the global market have brought into sharp focus the need for creativity, problem solving and teaming skills in our engineering graduates. Industry surveys and the ABET requirements clearly confirm that need. For many students this is a culture change requiring them to think out of the box and into the real world of engineering where needs and requirements must be concretely defined and the selection of design solutions is not black and white. This paper discusses a new course sequence that brings together the basic tools of project management with the creative process of developing new products. The two semester course sequence applies project management techniques such as work breakdown structures, Gantt charting, scheduling and quantitative trade-off studies to the process of developing a new product. Specifically, the new product is the subject of the students’ senior capstone project which is pursued in teams and addresses specific products to improve healthcare and aging-in- place and products that improve the lives of persons with disabilities. These needs were identified by healthcare professionals in focus group discussions. The teams are mentored throughout the development process by the professionals that initiated the need. The role of these professionals is that of an active and vital voice of the customer fully integrated in the development process. Over the past three years sixty students have followed the senior capstone course sequence and six patentable products have been created.


In 2004, the Council on Competitiveness issued its final report on the National Innovation Initiative called “Innovate America1.” Clearly America’s focus must change from optimizing and incremental improvements to mobilizing our whole society for innovation. The future of America is in returning to the core capabilities of innovation and exploration, in essence, returning to what we do best. The Council made recommendations in three broad categories: creative talent in a culture of collaboration and “symbiotic relationship between research and commercialization,” investment seeking “to give innovators the resources and incentives to succeed,” and infrastructure with the creation of “new industry-academia alliances . . . . and flexible intellectual properties regimes” 1. Western Carolina University (WCU), a regional comprehensive institution founded in 1889 with a distinguished history of teaching and learning for western North Carolina has begun the process of alignment with a new focus on innovation. WCU has launched an initiative to engage the resources of the university, its faculty, students, and facilities in the economic growth of the region. At a regional summit held at Cullowhee, NC in February 2003, the university was asked to explore engagement in non-traditional and creative ways 2. Since that time, numerous initiatives have been launched to stimulate this engagement in new product development, in broadband communications, in adaptive devices, and in rapid prototyping. The conditions are primed for innovative initiatives to convert this enthusiasm into reality. The curricular sequence which combines project management, new product development and the student senior capstone project is in full alignment with these recommendations and

Sanger, P., & Ferguson, C., & Stone, W. (2009, June), Integrating Project Management, Product Development, And Senior Capstone Into A Course Sequence That Creates New Products And Patents For Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5050

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