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Real World Capstone Design Course

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.835.1 - 6.835.7

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Paper Authors

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Martha W. Ostheimer

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Elmer Grubbs

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

Session 3232

Real World Capstone Design Course Elmer Grubbs, Martha W. Ostheimer The University of Arizona


Recent feedback from industry and our alumni indicates that graduating engineers need better preparation in solving open-ended problems, thinking "outside the box", working in teams, and in developing strong communication skills. In response to this feedback, as well as ABET Program Outcomes Requirements, we redesigned our senior capstone course to include real world and multidisciplinary technical projects proposed and sponsored by eleven companies, five University departments and the student satellite and solar car projects. Many of our industrial partners also participate as guest speakers in the class exposing ECE majors to real world professional topics including engineering design, the proposal process, design reviews, patents and intellectual property, ethics, quality and robustness issues, and considerations involved in designing for the environment. All students work in design teams of three to six students and prepare significant written documentation as well as three oral presentations during the two semester, four credit hour sequence of the course. Varied forms of assessment are used for the class, including a unique, well-designed rubric for the evaluation of the student’s writing portfolios. The class is team taught by an ECE faculty member and the ECE Department’s Technical Communication Expert. We believe that students’ enthusiasm for the course results from both the uniquely collaborative design of this class and the real world application of all of the material provided in this innovative course.

1. Introduction

Many of today’s engineering graduates lack the necessary skills to become contributing members in an industrial team environment immediately upon graduation. Most engineering schools have concentrated their efforts in preparing engineers to go to graduate school, or have simply neglected the more practical aspects of the profession, preferring to let industry train their engineers through co-op or on site training programs. Industry for its part, has been lobbying engineering schools, state legislatures, ABET and whoever else would listen, trying to get universities to prepare more fully engineering students for the day to day teaming, communication, and real world design tasks that the students will face upon graduation.

The culmination of this lobbying effort has been the Boyer report 1, as well as a strong component of increased design, teaming, communications and exposure to real world topics, such as ethics, Design for Environment, etc. in the ABET 2000 Program Outcomes Requirements2. Most engineering schools are now actively looking for ways to rework their curricula to include more design, teaming, and communications skills as well as assessment techniques for measuring the effectiveness of the changes made.

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Ostheimer, M. W., & Grubbs, E. (2001, June), Real World Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2001 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015