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Project Oriented Capstone Design In Civil Engineering: Linkages With Industry To Enhance The Practice

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

College-Industry Partnerships: Bringing Industry into the Curriculum Development and Design Cycle

Tagged Division

College-Industry Partnerships

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.999.1 - 15.999.15



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Paper Authors

author page

Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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

Project–Oriented Capstone Design in Civil Engineering: Linkages with Industry to Enhance the Practice

Abstract: Teaching civil engineering design through senior projects or capstone design courses, with industry involvement and support, has increased in recent years. The general trend toward increasing the design component in engineering curricula is part of an effort to better prepare graduates for engineering practice. While some design projects are still of the “made up” type carried out by individual students, the vast majority of projects today deal with “real-world problems” and are usually conducted by student teams. The paper begins first by briefly reviewing the design as a “thought” process, focusing on several dimensions of “design thinking” and how “design thinking” skills are acquired. Second, the paper reports on the development, implementation, and subsequent evaluation of a senior design course at an international university, where practitioners have played a major role in planning and teaching the capstone course. The new, restructured design course, co-taught by practitioners from the Region, has met its declared objectives and exposed students to professional practice. This industry-driven experience has also provided information with regard to curricular content and capabilities of departmental graduates. In a way, the capstone experience reported on in this paper, serves as a microcosm of the four year program. Experiences and outputs from the course can be used to provide guidance and insights into curricular changes, teaching methods, and exposure to civil engineering practice in the Region; and helps in establishing enduring connections with the industrial sector.


Design is widely considered to be the central and the most distinguishing activity of civil engineering. It has also long been understood that engineering institutions should graduate engineers who could design effectively to meet societal needs. Historically, engineering curricula have been based largely on an “engineering science” model, referred to as the “Grinter Model”, in which engineering is taught only after a solid basis in science and mathematics. The resulting engineering graduates were perceived by industry and academia, at the time, as being “ill- prepared” for the practice. Despite steps taken to remedy the situation, through greater industry- academia collaboration; both design faculty and design practitioners argue that further improvements are necessary. Design faculty across the country and across a range of educational institutions still feel that the leaders of engineering schools (deans, department heads, tenured faculty) are unable or unwilling to recognize the intellectual complexities and resources needed to support good design education.

Fortunately, more and more educators are becoming aware of the issues of design, and steps are being taken world wide, to address the concerns of industry at large. One approach has been to form “symbiotic” partnership between industry and academia through senior capstone projects. The capstone course has evolved over the years from “made up” projects devised by faculty to

Akili, W. (2010, June), Project Oriented Capstone Design In Civil Engineering: Linkages With Industry To Enhance The Practice Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16855

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