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Interdisciplinary Design Teams Lessons Learned From Experience

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Capstone Courses I

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.815.1 - 11.815.9



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Paper Authors


Paul Leiffer LeTourneau University

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Paul R. Leiffer is a professor in the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University, where he has taught since 1979. He is currently co-developer of the program in BioMedical Engineering. He received his B.S.E.E. from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Drexel University. Prior to joining the faculty at LeTourneau, he was involved in cardiac cell research at the University of Kansas Medical Center. His professional interests include bioinstrumentation, digital signal processing, and engineering ethics. Email:

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Roger Gonzalez LeTourneau University


Thomas Hellmuth LeTourneau University

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Dr. Tom Hellmuth is Dean of the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas. He obtained a B.S.M.E. from Rice University in 1978, an M.S.M.E. from Colorado State University in 1980, and a Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1995. He worked in industry in the area of machine and thermal system design for about five years before beginning his teaching career. He has taught for 19 years in mechanical engineering and engineering technology programs. Current interests are in modeling of thermal systems and engineering design. Email:

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

Interdisciplinary Design Teams – Lessons Learned by Experience Introduction

Capstone design has traditionally been a highlight of a student’s study at LeTourneau University. As a general engineering program offering a B.S. in Engineering with concentrations in Electrical, Mechanical, Computer, Biomedical, and Materials Joining, it is our goal to involve as many students as possible in an interdisciplinary design experience involving two or more concentrations. As we offer projects each year, we define more clearly the purposes and guidelines for the senior design experience, important lessons in interdisciplinary design, and the factors for project success.

Student involvement in interdisciplinary teams is not only an expectation of industry but also has become a required outcome of the ABET engineering criteria. EC2000 criteria now include outcome 3d which states that “engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have…an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams.”1 This requirement can be met in a number of ways, including a structured simulated experience or by an actual capstone project that requires the involvement of several disciplines.

Obstacles to multi-disciplinary teamwork, including disciplinary competition, communication problems, and scheduling difficulties often limit the effectiveness of such teams. We previously reported2 on a series of curriculum “tools” which have been initiated in our program to insure that students will have a measure of success in project teamwork. These methods include (1) multiple and varied opportunities for projects in teams, (2) early involvement in senior project teams, (3) specific training for teamwork, (4) coursework in and application of project management techniques, and (5) the use of multiple items of feedback to determine the contribution of each team member.

Purposes and Guidelines

Senior design projects in our engineering curriculum serve a number of purposes for the students: 1. Experience involvement in a capstone design, using prior course material to solve an ill-defined problem and to develop a workable solution. 2. Bring a “paper” design to reality and learn from the experience of solving unexpected problems. 3. Gain familiarity with design techniques and project management tools. 4. Interface with a client, develop specifications, and present reports. 5. Develop teamwork skills. 6. Learn new techniques, which become required as the project develops. 7. Gain exposure to significant interdisciplinary work wherever possible. 8. Mimic industry approaches on a small scale.

Senior design faculty in our program have developed the following guidelines for the senior design courses:

Leiffer, P., & Gonzalez, R., & Hellmuth, T. (2006, June), Interdisciplinary Design Teams Lessons Learned From Experience Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--228

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