Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
The grand challenges outlined by the National Academy of Engineers and addressed by the ABET learning outcomes reflect the changing landscape of undergraduate engineering education. Indeed, to be competitive, the next generation of engineering professionals must obtain skills and preparation beyond those in a traditional technical discipline. Accordingly, learners must principally demonstrate the ability to: understand ethics and social responsibility, develop and implement complex systems, communicate and function within multidisciplinary groups, and understand impacts of their designs in different societal and environmental contexts.
Achieving these outcomes requires a pedagogy that not only holistically broadens non-technical aspects of engineering design, but provides a conducive learning environment that is responsive to the changing professional industry landscape. At our University, we have endeavored to facilitate innovation and professional efficacy by closely tying our capstone course with current industry practice. The course begins with as a traditional lecture course in parallel with the problem-based learning format during the first 5 weeks to rapidly prepare learners for our industry-oriented approach to project management and systems-level engineering, adopted for the remaining 25 weeks. Here, we employ a hierarchical structure that emphasizes both group and individual responsibility for a (self-specified) scope of work. Capstone projects and their associated teams are approved based on how well the nascent student-team can articulate and address the client’s need; as such, many if not all projects require multidisciplinary skillsets. Thus, instruction of the capstone course follows a collaborative teaching model, one that is inherent to its success: mixed-discipline learners are co-taught by instructors hailing from respective engineering departments, selected for their broad theoretical, experimental and practical knowledge. We hope to expand in the future and bring in more representation from business, sociology, and environmental science.
This paper critically assesses a multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral engineering capstone course over the last twenty years. During this time, the course structure has evolved to support three main project tracks: corporate-sponsored projects model where clients from industry propose projects for a fee; the social entrepreneurship theme where motivated learners identify opportunities for innovation emphasizing community applications; and the academic or faculty-initiated model, which draws on ideas from on- or off-campus research. Our goal is to create an environment that fosters learner innovation by transitioning students beyond immersive and experiential learning toward actual creation of real-world value, supported by activities specifically intended to foster entrepreneurially-minded learning. By bolstering student contribution in this manner, learners move away from viewing the course simply as an academic exercise. In fact, many successful students obtain further project funding or employment as a direct result of their participation in a capstone project.
The actual realization of these outcomes necessitates significant resources and scaffolded mentorship, fine-tuned over the many years of lessons learned. In this paper, we will articulate the major challenges and revisions to the course along with the motivation behind the current course design, so that other programs may learn from our model. Program assessment will be obtained from faculty and teaching assistant observations, as well as participant feedback.
Favaloro, T., & Mantey, P. E., & Petersen, S. C., & Vesecky, J. F. (2018, June), Preparation of the Professional Engineer: Outcomes from 20 Years of a Multidisciplinary and Cross-sectoral Capstone Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30884
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