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Learning Outcomes of a Junior-Level Project-Based Learning (PBL) Course: Preparation for Capstone

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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

Design Pedagogy

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1074.1 - 26.1074.14



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Paper Authors


Sudhir Kaul Western Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kaul is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western Carolina University. His research interests include Fracture Diagnostics, Structural Dynamics and Control, and Motorcycle Dynamics.

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Wesley L. Stone Western Carolina University

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Dr. Wes Stone is an associate professor and interim department head in the Department of Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. He earned his bachelors degree from the University of Texas at Austin, masters degree from Penn State, and PhD from Georgia Tech, all in Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include manufacturing processes and quality techniques. He also serves as the program director for Engineering Technology at WCU.

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Learning Outcomes of a Junior Level Project Based Learning (PBL) Course: Preparation for CapstoneThis paper evaluates the learning outcomes of a junior level course designed for engineering andengineering technology students. The course is designed to serve as a preparation for the CapstoneProject in the senior year and primarily contributes toward the achievement of five ABET1 studentoutcomes. In this course, students go through the critical steps in the design and developmentprocess in order to deliver an alpha prototype at the end of the semester. Assessment of outcomesis performed through direct measurements of student performance in the team project and multipleassignments with the use of specific performance indicators that are established for each outcome.Some data from student self-assessment is also used to evaluate the student perception aboutcertain outcomes. Student perceptions are quantified by using data collected from two sections ofthe course taught by two different instructors in Spring 2014. The course is specifically designedto prepare the students for the Capstone Project and at the same time incorporate components toachieve learning outcomes (called as student outcomes in the ABET1 literature) that are difficultto achieve in the rest of the engineering and engineering technology curricula. These learningoutcomes include student ability to function effectively as a member of a diverse andinterdisciplinary technical team, student understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities,student ability to understand the impact of technology in a societal context, and student ability tograsp engineering projects in a holistic sense. All these learning outcomes are critically analyzedand discussed in this paper. The course is designed to be a part of the project based learning (PBL)sequence and is expected to prepare students for the challenging senior year projects wherestudents are required to demonstrate a strong ability to synthesize and integrate their skills learntfrom the previous years. This course serves as a scaffolding2 to assist the junior students indeveloping critical skills for solving problems associated with open-ended projects that may havemultiple possible solutions, conflicting requirements, as well as technical and non-technicalconstraints. This course attempts to mitigate the steep learning curve that engineering studentsoften encounter in their senior year. Student self-assessment and data collected from this courseare being used to make improvements to the content and to make adjustments to the execution ofteam projects.[1] ABET, Engineering Accreditation Commission, 2010, “Criteria for Accrediting EngineeringPrograms,” ABET Inc, Baltimore, MD.[2] Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., Ross, G., 1976, “The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving,” Journalof Psychology and Psychiatry, 17, pp. 89-100.

Kaul, S., & Stone, W. L. (2015, June), Learning Outcomes of a Junior-Level Project-Based Learning (PBL) Course: Preparation for Capstone Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24411

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