June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.895.1 - 10.895.8
Lessons Learned in Implementing a Multi-disciplinary Senior Design Sequence
John-David Yoder and Juliet Hurtig T.J. Smull College of Engineering Ohio Northern University
During the 2003-4 academic year, the authors advised four student senior capstone teams. Unlike traditional capstone teams at Ohio Northern University, these teams were intentionally chosen to be multi-disciplinary, including students from two departments and a variety of majors, and faculty with varying specialties. Two teams worked on a national robotics competition, one team for an industry-sponsored project, and one team on a research project in the area of robotic controls. The challenges and rewards of these projects will be discussed in the paper, including coordination between departments, suitability of projects, and student feedback. Lessons learned and requirements for future multidisciplinary projects, as well as student preparation, will also be discussed.
Ohio Northern University (ONU) has an enrollment of almost 3300 students across five colleges. The engineering college is divided into three departments: the Department of Civil Engineering (CE), the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science (ECCS) and the Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME). Senior engineering students at Ohio Northern University in the ECCS and ME departments enroll in year-long capstone courses. These courses focus on a team-based design and implementation project. Each department offers their own courses, with faculty acting as advisors for each team. Both departments have multiple projects from which student teams can pick and choose.
In the 2003-2004 academic year, it was decided that several of these projects would be multi- disciplinary, and require students from various majors to work together to complete the project. There are several reasons that this was attempted. Industry projects are increasingly requiring multi-disciplinary skills, and ABET requires that students must attain “an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams.”  Also, emerging fields such as robotics and automation are inherently multi-disciplinary, requiring the integration of computers, electronics, and mechanical systems. In addition to these requirements, the ONU Mechanical Engineering Working Group (a group of representatives from employers and graduate schools) has commented on the increasing need for engineers to work across disciplines.
There is a significant body of work describing multi-disciplinary capstone courses, only a brief overview of which is presented here. In 1994, Miller and Olds  describe the development of a multi-disciplinary design capstone course at the Colorado School of Mines. Todd et al showed
Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education
Yoder, J., & Hurtig, J. (2005, June), Lessons Learned In Implementing A Multi Disciplinary Senior Design Sequence Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. https://peer.asee.org/14370
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