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Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Program A Case Study

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Capstone Design Projects

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.786.1 - 13.786.12

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Paper Authors


Charles Dolan University of Wyoming

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Charles W. Dolan is H. T. Person Professor of Engineering at the University of Wyoming. He has over 20 years of design experience prior to joining the university faculty. He is a fellow in the American Concrete Institute and serves on the ACI 318 Building Code committee.

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Ovid Plumb University of Wyoming

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O. A. "Gus" Plumb served as Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming for the past eight years.

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

Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Program A Case Study

Abstract To advance interdisciplinary engineering, an all college multi-disciplinary senior design program was initiated. The initial project was a two year effort to design an automated transit system for the campus. The first semester was a planning stage to establish vehicle, route and infrastructure parameters. The planning semester was followed by three semesters of sequential design. Students enter the program at various stages of development and must complete defined portions of the overall project. The program places emphasis on documenting work, picking up work initiated by others and communicating design objectives and changes to the team in addition to completing the design elements. The teams orally presented their work to a panel of class selected evaluators. The program was presented to the top university administrators, including the president and vice presidents of facilities and research, plus several state legislators.

Institutionally, the program was designed to meet the various departmental senior design requirements. Students in the class were registered for between two and five credit hours. Depending on the major, the students had to either fabricate their design or develop detailed design drawings. The interaction between the vehicle design and infrastructure works required close interaction of the various disciplines.

The paper presents and assesses the project concept, discusses the professional involvement, institutional constraints, administrative support and the results of the five semesters work. Recommendations for improvements for implementation of similar projects at other institutions are included.


Engineering projects are increasingly complex due to client needs, system integration efforts, advances in technology, and computer aided design tools. A common concern of national advisory boards is that students must function better in team projects and improve communication skills. This is reflected in ABET requirements for multidisciplinary senior design activities. In many situations, these objectives are met by defining “multidisciplinary” as using different skill sets within a major. For example, civil engineers may require students use structural and geotechnical skills in their project. The use of “interdisciplinary” in this paper is to suggest that a wide range of engineering studies are engaged in the program.

In 2001 the University of Wyoming appointed the first permanent H. T. Person Professor dedicated to improving undergraduate education. One objective for this professorship was to enhance engineering design activities into the college curriculum. The first three years were spent introducing design projects into the freshman Introduction to Engineering class. Once the freshman program was established, the operation of the program transferred to other full time faculty.1 In 2005 attention shifted to development of an interdisciplinary senior design program.

Dolan, C., & Plumb, O. (2008, June), Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Program A Case Study Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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