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Integrating The Real World Into The Capstone Experience

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.621.1 - 6.621.6

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Paper Authors

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R. Williams

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F. Edwards

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E. Egemen

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Adrian Hanson

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


A. Hanson Civil, Agricultural, and Geological Engineering Dept., New Mexico State University Las Cruces NM 88003

E. Egemen Civil, Agricultural, and Geological Engineering Dept., New Mexico State University Las Cruces NM 88003

F. Edwards Department of Civil Engineering, University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR 72701

R. Williams Department of Civil Engineering, University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR 72701

Abstract The capstone design course has traditionally been intended to be an experience that brings together all of the design tools that students have learned over the four years of course work. There is a strong incentive to incorporate more "real world" experiences into the class. This paper revisits this design experience and shares some thoughts regarding introduction of a consulting engineering environment into the classroom setting for capstone design experience. Issues of interest are team selection, project load distribution within teams, personal billable time, engineer/manufacturer interaction, permit procurement, client interactions, understanding plans, specifications, and contract documents, and presentation of the final product to the client.

Introduction The goal of capstone courses is to have students experience the overall design process as a whole and realize the different components of an engineering design project. In general, the design process is an interactive process with the client and regulatory agencies to define a problem, solve the problem, and present the solution to the client. However, due to time and resource constraints, a number of steps in the “real life” engineering design processes, such as interactions with clients, permit applications, specifications, contract documents, etc. have traditionally been omitted from capstone class syllabus. This paper describes the authors’ approach to present a complete overview of the design process to the students. For this purpose, engineering consulting office was used as a model. The students were asked to complete the design assignment just like in a consulting office, where they would be required to meet with the clients, interact with the regulators, turn in time sheets, regularly meet with their peers, and complete the design considering the regulatory as well as the cost issues.

In general, the capstone design classes at New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the University of Arkansas (UofA) are similar in nature; but, has the difference that at NMSU, the class discussed in this paper is offered only to the students enrolled in the environmental option under the civil engineering department; whereas at the UofA, the capstone class is multi-disciplinary within civil engineering. The following sections present the various activities employed during the capstone classes in both NMSU and UofA, without differentiating between the universities.

In the beginning of the semesters, the authors separately met with members of the local consulting engineering communities and asked the consultants what they believe should be included in the capstone course. Specifically they were asked to identify areas of deficiency found in recent graduates and to comment on how they feel these shortcomings might be eliminated. At both campuses, the consultants felt that recent graduates lacked an understanding of the overall design process, communication skills, and AutoCad experience. The classes at both UofA and NMSU were restructured to correct these shortcomings

Williams, R., & Edwards, F., & Egemen, E., & Hanson, A. (2001, June), Integrating The Real World Into The Capstone Experience Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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