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Reflections on Teaching a Consolidated Capstone Design Course to a Mixed Student Body

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics I

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1109.1 - 25.1109.8



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Paper Authors


Jian Peng Southeast Missouri State University

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Jian Peng is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at Southeast Missouri State University. He received his B.E. degree from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, in 1992, his M.S. degree from Hangzhou Institute of Electronic Engineering, Hangzhou, China in 1995, and his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 2004. His research focuses on intelligent robotics, computer vision, and characterization of nano-material. He is a member of ASEE and IEEE.

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Santaneel Ghosh Southeast Missouri State University

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Santaneel Ghosh is currently serving as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Mo. Ghosh has received his Ph.D in mechanical engineering from the University of Arizona, Tucson, in 2005. Prior to joining Southeast, he was a part-time faculty in the Department of Physics, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. During his doctoral and postdoctoral training, he has conducted research on design and development of the lead-free solders for semiconductor industries (Semiconductor Research Corporation-funded project and closely worked with Intel Corporation); and multifunctional nanostructure synthesis and characterization for therapeutic applications. His current research areas are: externally tunable nanostructures for targeted delivery and axon-regeneration after nervous system injury, hydrogel encapsulated quantum dots for single molecule imaging, magnetically controlled micro- and nano-fluidics for lab-on-a-chip applications. So far, he has published 25 peer-reviewed articles in reputed journals and international conference proceedings. He serves as a reviewer for the National Institute of Health (NIH), American Chemical Society (ACS), and many internationally reputed journals. He is the recipient of the following awards: “Cottrell College Science Award” for young faculties- Research Corporation for Science Advancement, Tucson, Ariz.; “Faculty Research Award,” Southeast Missouri State University, COSM, 2010; “Tony B. Award,” Association of laboratory Automation, 2010, 2011; Center of Nanoscale Science and Technology-University of Maryland, College Park (CNST-UMD) Scholarship, 2009-2011; and Marquis “Who’s Who in America,” 2009. He has involved both undergraduates (22 to date) and graduates (five) in his research projects. He has established a laboratory for Nano-biotechnology and micro- and nanofluidics at Southeast and created and developed interest at the pre-college level by incorporation of science in K-12 classroom.

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Ken Surendran Southeast Missouri State University

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Ken Surendran is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Southeast Missouri State University. His research interests include software engineering, information systems, and computer science education. His industrial experiences in IT were with Indian Space Research Organization and Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines. His previous academic assignments in computing were with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; UNITEC Institute of Technology, New Zealand; Copper-belt University, Zambia; and PSG College of Technology, India. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal Information Systems Education. Surendran received a B.E. in electrical engineering from University of Madras, India, M.Tech. in electrical engineering (control systems) from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, and Ph.D. in applied analysis from State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is a senior life member of IEEE and a member of ACM and AITP.

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Reflections on Teaching a Consolidated Capstone Design Course to a Mixed Student BodyIn the last several years, under the intense financial pressure more courses have beenconsolidated to reduce the cost. Sometimes even similar courses offered at different departmentswere consolidated. The down side of this trend is that the departments may lose the full controlof the consolidated courses. The up side of this trend, however, is that such consolidations canpotentially open the doors for more interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities. At ouruniversity, originally four departments offered Capstone courses to four undergraduate majors,including engineering physics (EP), computer science (CS), computer information systems(CIS), and global studies (GS). Starting Spring 2010, all these capstone courses have beenconsolidated into one course that is offered to all seniors student from the above majors. Thecourse has been offered twice (Spring 2010 and Spring 2011), and this article presents ourreflections on teaching such a course.To let each department maintain partial control of the course and to deliver the necessarytechnical/disciplinary content, the course is team taught by faculty members from eachdepartment. A primary instructor is selected to facilitate and coordinate the teaching process.The three credit-hour capstone design course meets three times a week, one hour each time.Among the three hours each week, one hour is the common meeting time, and contents commonto all majors are delivered. In the other two hours each faculty member meets with their studentteams to focus on the design projects. The topics covered in the common content include designprocess, project management, ethics, and most importantly, oral presentations from the studentsabout their specific design projects. At the end of the semester, a peer-evaluation of all thedesign projects is performed.Most design teams consist of students from the same major; however, we have had a few teamsconsisting of students from different backgrounds. We also have had teams of different sizes,ranging from two persons to five persons. Our experience has indicated that three- or four-person is probably the optimum size for the capstone design team: you don’t have groupdynamics if you have less than three persons in a team, while a team consisting of more than fourpeople becomes very difficult to manage. To instill the importance of team work, the student’sgrade is heavily based on the performance of their team. Each team gives four oral presentationson different aspects of their projects, a presentation on ethics, and several written reports on theirdesign. The oral presentations are peer evaluated by all the students. Because we have a mixedstudent body, this has enforced the students to learn how to present their ideas to “outsiders” andforce them to practice their communication skills.The course has been generally well-received by all the students. Most of them realize theimportance of the “soft” skills, particularly the skill of how to communicate with people fromdifferent backgrounds. The exposure to a wide variety of design projects, however, has apolarizing effect: some students become interested in other majors while others withdraw andbecome detached.

Peng, J., & Ghosh, S., & Surendran, K. (2012, June), Reflections on Teaching a Consolidated Capstone Design Course to a Mixed Student Body Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21866

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