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Inter-Collaborative Learning in Capstone Design: How Do We Optimize Costs and Benefits?

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Capstone and Collaborations in Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Kevin G. Sutterer Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Kevin Sutterer is Professor and Department Head of Civil Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. He received BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering at University of Missouri-Rolla, a second MS in Civil Engineering at Purdue University, and a Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology. Although his specialization is geotechnical engineering, he has consulted in environmental and structural engineering as well and currently teaches courses in geotechnical and structural engineering. Kevin was a geotechnical consultant with Soil Consultants, Inc. of St. Peters, Missouri from 1984-1988. He also served as Director of Engineering Services for SCI Environmental of Chesterfield, Missouri from 1988-89 before leaving practice to pursue his Ph.D. Kevin was an Assistant Professor at University of Kentucky from 1993-1998, and has been a faculty at Rose-Hulman since then. Kevin has served the Civil Engineering Division of ASEE for over 10 years and was Division Chair in 2010-11. He has also served on numerous ASCE committees. In addition to receiving numerous teaching awards over the years, he was selected by Kentucky Society of Professional Engineering and National Society of Professional Engineers as their 1996 Young Engineer of the Year.

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Sue Niezgoda P.E. Gonzaga University

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Dr. Niezgoda is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Gonzaga University. She has a doctorate in Civil Engineering from Penn State University and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Wyoming. She conducts research in the areas of engineering education, hydraulic engineering, soil erosion and sediment transport, river engineering/stream restoration, and uncertainty and risk assessment for stream restoration design. Dr. Niezgoda recently developed a risk-benefit assessment method for use in improving the design of stream restoration projects and is actively working to develop it into a tool for practitioner use. Dr. Niezgoda is actively involved in the ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Institute, holding officer positions in committees under the Urban Water Resources Research Council (Urban Streams Committee), and the Hydraulics and Waterways Council (River Restoration Committee, Urban Stream Restoration Task Committee, River Restoration Educational Materials Task Committee). As part of committee tasks, Dr. Niezgoda is working with others to form a consensus on the state of the art in stream restoration education (establishing a Body of Knowledge for the practice of stream restoration) and the potential for national certification. Dr. Niezgoda is also a member of the Board of Directors of River Restoration Northwest, and is the Invited Speaker Coordinator and Session and Abstract Coordinator for the annual Northwest Stream Restoration Symposium.

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John Aidoo Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Aidoo is currently an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Department at Rose-Hulman Institute Technology. Prior to this appointment, he worked as the Bridge Design Engineer at South Carolina Department of Transportation. He received a B.Sc. from the University of Science & Technology in Ghana in 1997 and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. His research activities include repair and strengthening of buildings and bridges using Advanced Composite Materials, laboratory and field testing of structures and the fatigue behavior of concrete bridges.

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The civil engineering programs at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RH) and Gonzaga University (GU) have been seeking to understand how to best facilitate capstone projects in collaboration with students at other institutes. We have the following questions – • How beneficial is it for student teams to spend time together in person to understand their cultural differences and to develop a team rapport? • How beneficial is it for student teams to visit the site in person and get to know the community that will benefit from their project design? • Are the costs (time, travel safety, funding) associated with student and mentor travel to support inter-collaborative international projects acceptable when compared to the benefits? We agreed to support two project teams of four students each between our two institutes. Each team of four students were comprised of two from GU and two from RH. One project was located near RH and the other near GU. Our programs supported student and mentor travel to the sites so that the teams came to know each other face-to-face. An assessment plan was devised and implemented with the help of experts at RH. Some of the assessment is part of a larger program that will be reported later. This paper reports the findings from focus groups and interviews of the participants.

We have concluded that • Inter-collaborative senior project experiences provide opportunities for students to learn in ways that more traditional senior projects do not. They positively impact not only the students on the inter-collaborative teams, but also their friends and colleagues who are watching them. • Inter-collaborative experiences provide opportunities for faculty mentors and coaches to learn about other programs and also in broadened empathy for others and appreciation for challenges in engineering designs in other parts of the world. • Domestic inter-collaborative projects will enhance student learning, despite less cultural differences. Cost of domestic collaborations can be high, especially if they are not in the same region. • The cost of inter-collaborative senior projects may be too high to become the norm for all senior design teams in a program. Commitment of faculty members at both institutes is crucial to the success of these kinds of arrangements.

We believe there may be ways to gain the learning experienced by these senior design teams at less cost. This could include inter-collaborative projects with a lesser scope or shorter duration, or perhaps formation of a cooperative of universities participating in inter-collaborative project work independent on its own schedule, independent of the restrictions of any single institute. The results of this study seem to confirm these projects should not be abandoned and we should work to acquire more information to better understand the benefits in learning through intercollaborative projects.

Sutterer, K. G., & Niezgoda, S., & Aidoo, J. (2016, June), Inter-Collaborative Learning in Capstone Design: How Do We Optimize Costs and Benefits? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25436

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