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Multidisciplinary Patient-Centered Capstone Senior Design Projects

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Capstone Design Courses I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Mansoor Nasir Lawrence Technological University

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Dr. Mansoor Nasir received his B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of California-Berkeley. He worked as a research scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. before joining the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Lawrence Technological University. He has several publications in the areas of microfluidics, chemical and biological sensors, and MEMS technology. He is also passionate about engineering pedagogy. He has not only published articles on engineering education but has also led several workshops on using instructional methodologies that make classroom instruction more engaging and effective.

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Darrell K. Kleinke P.E. University of Detroit Mercy

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Dr. Kleinke has over 25 years of industry experience in the design and development of electro-mechanical systems. As a tenure-track faculty member of the UDM mechanical engineering department, he has adopted a program of instruction which UDM has branded "Faces on Design".
The guiding principle is that student project work is more meaningful and fulfilling when students have the opportunity to see and experience the faces of real live clients. In the series of design courses he teaches, students design mechanical devices for use by disabled clients. The students are required to interview the client and design a device that will address one of the client's unmet needs. The series concludes with students presenting prototypes of designs. The reactions of the client, as seen in their faces, is the ultimate grade.
In addition to academic work, Dr Kleinke is a registered professional engineer and conducts seminars on innovation which are tailored to the needs of automotive engineers. Dr Kleinke's recent publication, "Capstones Lessons to Prepare Students for the Changing World of Corporate Innovation", was awarded fist place as "best paper" at a 2011 regional conference of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Molly McClelland University of Detroit Mercy Orcid 16x16

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Dr. McClelland is an Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Detroit Mercy. She has over 25 years of health care experience working in a variety of hospital and health care settings. She has a passion for helping people who have physical health care needs. Dr. McClelland has been collaborating with the College of Engineering for 8 years. The multidisciplinary collaboration blends nursing students with engineering students to build innovative assistive technologies designed to improve the lives of people who live with physical disabilities.

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Capstone design projects are the culmination of the student learning process at the undergraduate level and provide an opportunity for student to work on real-world, open-ended problems. Following the engineering design process, students discover needs, propose solutions, build prototypes and test the implemented design. There are many models that exist in the exact implementation of this ABET-required experience, ranging from need-based design to basic research [1]. A common model is for Biomedical engineering students is to interact with clinicians such as nurses, medical doctors and residents, through interviews and in some cases, immersion experiences [2]. In other cases, the faculty instructor may communicate with the clinicians or industrial sponsors and provide the students with a set of problems [3].

This paper introduces a new model for empathy-drive design experience that has been implemented through a collaboration between three departments, spread across two universities. Over the past two years, Biomedical engineering (BME) students at XXXXXX University have been working on multidisciplinary teams with Mechanical engineering and Nursing students from XXXXXX University. At the heart of this collaborative effort are patients (‘clients’) from a local VA hospital who volunteer to interact with student teams. This patient-centered model is a transformative experience for the students and there are many aspects of customer-interaction, needs finding and brainstorming that are not possible with the aforementioned models. Students not only learn how to interact with people living with various types and degrees of disabilities but in many cases build long lasting relationships with the clients. The experience also fosters the social responsibility aspect of engineering profession since in most cases, the teams have to understand and incorporate the socioeconomic conditions and cultural pretexts specific to the client.

The opportunity to have a direct impact on the quality of a client’s life is a driving force for student design. However, successful implementation of such a model requires significant planning and close interaction between instructors. Communication between student teams is of paramount importance and is often found to be the primary cause in cases of strained team dynamics. Furthermore, methods of periodic team health assessment are necessary to prevent floundering and ensure participation from all team members. The instructors coordinate course timelines and some course assignments as well as cross-campus lectures. Some of the designed products have resulted intellectual property for the students and have also garnered praise in the local and national media. Methods for further improvement to this multidisciplinary empathy-driven design approach include pre and post surveys that assess student confidence and attitudes to solving problems. Prototypes can also improve from an emphasis on industrial design perspectives.


[1] Gassert, J. D., & Enderle, J. D. (2008). Design versus research in BME accreditation [ABET requirements and why research cannot substitute for design]. Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, IEEE, 27(2), 80-85. [2] Hotaling, N., Fasse, B. B., Bost, L. F., Hermann, C. D., & Forest, C. R. (2012). A quantitative analysis of the effects of a multidisciplinary engineering capstone design course. Journal of Engineering Education, 101(4), 630-656. [3] Todd, R. H., Magleby, S. P., Sorensen, C. D., Swan, B. R., & Anthony, D. K. (1995). A survey of capstone engineering courses in North America. Journal of Engineering Education, 84(2), 165-174.

Nasir, M., & Kleinke, D. K., & McClelland, M. (2016, June), Multidisciplinary Patient-Centered Capstone Senior Design Projects Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25764

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