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Rating Capstone Design Students On An Industrial Scale

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Design Project Based Learning

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1018.1 - 13.1018.11



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Paper Authors


Vernon Ulrich Grove City College

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Dr. Vern Ulrich has 19 years of design engineering experience in the printer industry working first for Xerox and more recently for Lexmark after earning a PhD in 1999. Since 2005, he has been an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Grove City College in western Pennsylvania.

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

Rating Capstone Design Students on an Industrial Scale


Capstone design for senior engineering students is a required class that focuses on design projects for all students. Assessing a team’s project results is usually a relatively easy task. However, fairly assessing the performance of individual students within the team is much more difficult. The complexity of the assessment task is compounded by the wide range of subjects, difficulty, and engineering tasks involved in differing projects. Assessing engineering performance across a variety of projects is also a common problem for most industrial employers. Many companies that employ engineers use a management-by-objective (MBO) assessment system for their professional employees. Grove City College capstone design students are now being assessed with a MBO system similar to industrial employers. A description of the Grove City College rating system including guidelines for writing student objectives and grading rubrics are presented along with an assessment of the success of the system.


Engineering capstone design is a course unlike any other course at Grove City College because the purpose of the course is for students to apply the knowledge they have gained across many of the subjects they have studied during the previous three years of engineering school. The goal is for students to have an opportunity to practice engineering in a team environment similar to the environment they are likely to experience upon graduation. A different type of class calls for a different process for assessing student performance than might be found in more theoretical courses. In their survey of engineering departments across the country, McKenzie, et al.1, suggest that many capstone design instructors find it easy to evaluate the performance of a senior design team, but struggle to evaluate the individual performance of students within the team. In an effort to assess the performance of both groups and individuals, Grove City College has adopted a management by objective process for individuals, similar to the process outlined by Tillman2.

Management by objective (MBO) originated from Peter Drucker in the 1950’s. George Odiorne and others popularized the process in the 1960’s. Odiorne describes MBO as “A process whereby the superior and the subordinate managers of an enterprise jointly identify its common goals, define each individual’s major areas of responsibility in terms of the results expected of him[or her], and use these measures as guides for operating the unit and assessing the contributing of each of its members.”3 Much has been written both good and bad about MBO. Short provides a good summary4, as does Becal.5,6 Regardless of the difficulties associated with MBO, it has been the experience of the author that most students will experience some form of this process immediately upon graduation from engineering school as they begin their first full time engineering employment. Therefore, the purpose for application of MBO to capstone design is threefold: 1. Provide a process for students and faculty to jointly define each student’s role in the capstone design group.

Ulrich, V. (2008, June), Rating Capstone Design Students On An Industrial Scale Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4155

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