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Interdisciplinary Design Course Structure: Lessons for Engineering Instructors from a Capstone Design Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Capstone and Collaborative Projects

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1011.1 - 26.1011.12



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Paper Authors


Karl Olsen Washington State University

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Dr. Olsen has been a member of the WSU faculty since 2009 and is an committed to developing innovative and effective teaching methods. He has taught a diverse section of coursework and is very active in developing ways to improve the undergraduate education at Washington State University. He uses innovative teaching approaches and is extremely receptive to student feedback. His enthusiasm for engineering courses is contagious. Students witness a professor who truly loves what he does. Part of what makes Dr. Olsen such a successful teacher is his joy at working in tandem with the students. He has been involved in developing the curriculum for several classes in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department as well as continuing to modify the curriculum and teaching methods for currently established courses. Dr. Olsen is passionate about interdisciplinary education and actively collaborates with students and faculty in civil engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, and landscape architecture. He has a breadth of understanding across multiple disciplines that allows his to engage with students on a large variety of topics.

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Todd Beyreuther Washington State University

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Beyreuther conducts built environment research and teaches interdisciplinary design studios under the WSU Institute for Sustainable Design (ISD) in areas of integrated building and infrastructure systems design. Beyreuther is the Director of the WSU Integrated Design Lab (IDL) that performs research and development activities with industry and professional practice partners. Since 2009, he has co-developed the WSU Integrated Design Experience (IDX) studio that teaches design collaboration around large-scale, complex real-world projects to undergraduate and graduate students of architecture, engineering, and construction management. Prior to joining Washington State University in 2008, Beyreuther practiced as a structural engineer in Seattle, WA and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Washington. He has also taught at the University of Washington in the College of Built Environments. Beyreuther received a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Architecture from the University of Washington.

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Michael Wolcott Washington State University

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Michael Wolcott is a Regent's Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a member of the interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering faculty, and director of Washington State University’s Institute for Sustainable Design. He holds a Ph.D. in materials engineering science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and BS/MS in wood science and forestry from the University of Maine. A member of the WSU faculty since 1996, he previously served as an associate professor at West Virginia University’s Division of Forestry.

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Tamara Laninga University of Idaho

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Dr. Tamara Laninga is an assistant professor in the Department of Conservation Social Sciences and the Director of the Bioregional Planning and Community Design program (BIOP) at the University of Idaho (U-Idaho). She is the University of Idaho PI for the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). She is an IDX instructor and also works closely with the outreach and environmental preferred products (EPP) teams. Dr. Laninga has over seven year experience aiding communities with sustainable land use planning. Specifically, she has facilitated student/community partnerships that have resulted in comprehensive plan updates; land use ordinance revisions; housing site and waterfront development conceptual designs; public engagement workshops; rails to trails and regional trail plans; and regional asset mapping, supply chain analysis, and conceptual designs for wood-based biofuels supply chains in the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Laninga teaches planning history and studio courses in the award-winning BIOP program and public involvement and social science theory in the CSS Department. Her research interests include community economic development, site selection for biofuels supply chains, the social acceptability of wood-based biofuels, and sustainable land use planning approaches.

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  Interdisciplinary Design Course Structure: Lessons for  Engineering Instructors from a Capstone Design Course   The  Integrated  Design  Experience  (IDX)  course  presents  students  with  real  world  problem focused on sustainability  in  the  built  environment.  The  multifaceted  nature  of  the  built  environment  necessitates interdisciplinary  involvement.  Senior  capstone  design  and  graduate  level  students  from  engineering, design,  and  community  planning  disciplines  collaborate  with  clients,  faculty,  and  industry  to  develop innovative  design  solutions.  This  work  describes  the   evolution  of  the  interdisciplinary  curriculum strategies  developed  over  a  5­year  period,  while  continually  expanding  the  diversity  of  disciplinary involvement,  breadth  of  project  topics,  and  techniques  to  engage  student  and  clients.  This  curriculum has  led  to  construction  of  several  student  designs  by  clients  of  the  projects.  Assessment  data  is presented  to  evaluate  specific  strategies  effectiveness  in  achieving  course  objectives.  Interdisciplinary curriculum  strategies  are  summarized  to  provide  implementation  to  other  interdisciplinary  capstone courses.   

Olsen, K., & Beyreuther, T., & Wolcott, M., & Laninga, T. (2015, June), Interdisciplinary Design Course Structure: Lessons for Engineering Instructors from a Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24348

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