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Life Long Learning Experiences And Simulating Multidisciplinary Teamwork Experiences Through Unusual Capstone Design Projects

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Design in the CHE Curriculum

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.825.1 - 8.825.9



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Paper Authors

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Richard Turton

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Joseph Shaeiwitz

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

Session 1413

Life-long Learning Experiences and Simulating Multi-disciplinary Teamwork Experiences through Unusual Capstone Design Projects

Joseph A. Shaeiwitz Richard Turton West Virginia University


There is significant consternation among engineering educators regarding the teaching of and the assessment of “an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams,” and “a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning.” 1 Questions commonly heard are: “Are we required to have a multi-disciplinary project experience in our curriculum?” or “How do we evaluate the ability for life-long learning?”

In this paper, a method used in the Chemical Engineering Department at West Virginia University to teach and to assess these outcomes is presented. While it is the details of the method used that will be presented, the lessons readers should learn are straightfoward. It is not necessary to implement the exact process described in this paper to teach and assess teamwork and life-long learning. If you want to teach and assess the ability for life-long learning, give students an assignment in which they have to demonstrate that they can learn new things on their own, and then assess their ability to do so. If you want students to have the ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams, give them an assignment on a large team and assess their performance in the team environment. The needs for a large team to compartmentalize assignments and for communication between compartments simulates a multi-disciplinary team. With a strong supporting argument, it is likely that this assignment would satisfy the indicated EC 2000 outcome.


In the senior year in chemical engineering at West Virginia University, the entire class works on a large project for two semesters under the direction of a student chief engineer. If enrollments exceed 25-30, the class may be divided into two groups working on two different projects. Faculty members play roles in this exercise. One is the client, for whom the students are “hired” to complete a design project. Another is the “vice-president” of the students’ company, who helps the students with technical matters. The chief engineer divides the class into groups, each headed by a group leader. The role of the chief engineer is to represent the entire team to the client and to provide leadership from the “big picture” perspective. The group leaders receive assignments from the chief engineer and are responsible for completing the work within their groups. More details of this process, including evaluation methods, are presented elsewhere.2 Assignments are deliberately vague and open ended. The goal is to force students to define their own work statement, with input from faculty, and to learn material not normally taught in class. The exact topics students must learn are a function of the project. It is less important what they learn year to year. The goal is to make students realize that they will have to continue learning new material throughout their careers and that they have the ability to do so. Table 1 lists some Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Turton, R., & Shaeiwitz, J. (2003, June), Life Long Learning Experiences And Simulating Multidisciplinary Teamwork Experiences Through Unusual Capstone Design Projects Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11494

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