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Optimizing The Structure For A Multidisciplinary Senior Design Experience

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering Education by Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.968.1 - 9.968.5



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Paper Authors

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Jeffrey Will

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Wesley Stone

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

Session 2471

Optimizing the Structure for a Multidisciplinary Senior Design Experience

Wesley L. Stone, Jeffrey D. Will Department of Mechanical Engineering/Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Valparaiso University

Abstract Students in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Valparaiso University take a multidisciplinary capstone senior design course. After the first two years of the course’s inception, it was revised in the summer of 2003 to incorporate suggestions of students and faculty in a continuous improvement effort. Changes to the course structure were instituted and course content materials were developed during the summer effort. The course now operates as several autonomous sections with a team approach that maintains a base level of consistency. Although only partially through the first year of the changes, initial feedback indicates that the changes have been well- received, more effectively delivering the design experience to the students, while more effectively utilizing faculty teaching load.

Introduction The capstone senior design experience for Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) students at Valparaiso University has rapidly developed into a valuable learning experience. The course sequence covers two semesters, and provides a multidisciplinary experience to students in both the mechanical and electrical/computer disciplines. In the 2000-01 academic year, the senior design sequence was split out by department, but in the summer of 2001 the courses were merged by the ME and ECE departments1 .

The senior design curriculum development was motivated by a need to place additional emphasis on developing student skills in product design and effective teamwork. Curriculum development has focused here since the introduction of Engineering Criteria 2000 by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology2 . Additionally, multidisciplinary design and teamwork have been active areas in curriculum development at other universities3-7 .

For two years, 2001-02 and 2002-03, Senior Design remained in the same basic form. The course was headed by a lead professor from each department with support from approximately four faculty members from each department in technical advisory roles. The course was conducted in a large group setting with breakout sessions for the individual design teams. Each team had five to six students with an approximately equal balance between ME and ECE students. The first semester was devoted primarily to defining system requirements, researching related topics, and generating the electro- mechanical design. The second semester focused on production of the prototype and its subsequent testing. These first two years proved to be good in providing the ME and ECE students with a multidisciplinary capstone design experience, but there was definite room for improvement.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Will, J., & Stone, W. (2004, June), Optimizing The Structure For A Multidisciplinary Senior Design Experience Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13506

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