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Relevant Design Experiences For Agricultural And Biosystems Engineers: Team Focus Through Competition

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.345.1 - 2.345.11



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Ronald E. Yoder

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

Session 1608

Relevant Design Experiences for Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers: Team Focus through Competition.

D. Raj Raman, Ronald E. Yoder The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


The multitude of specializations within biosystems engineering makes traditional capstone design courses, which typically focus on a single topic, less relevant. In our department, our year- long capstone design experience involves machine component design. While this experience is useful to students in all concentrations, ideally, students concentrating on biological-, food-, and soil and water-engineering will have a capstone design experience that integrates their unique technical capabilities. New capstone courses should also enhance the broader skills of undergraduate engineers, including teamwork, time and resource management, oral and written communication, and integrated computer skills. However, a variety of issues militate against simply adding new courses to the curriculum, whereas altering existing courses to provide new content is more acceptable. We report here on two years (four semesters) of experience with a hybrid design course based on two existing design courses, and appropriate to biological-, soil and water-, and food-engineering students. The catalyst for this hybrid course was an invitation to enter the Padnos Design Competition, which our students won with their first year’s effort1, despite lukewarm course evaluations. In this paper2 we discuss this paradox, describe changes we have suggested for our entire curricula based on our experiences in the design sequence, and explain how we are modifying our presentation of technical material to better suit the needs of the design course.


Senior design courses should be creative, integrative experiences that hone students’ technical and professional skills. Broad, open-ended problems foster creativity and establish linkages between seemingly unrelated areas of engineering science, while written reports, oral presentations, and team grading enhance professional skills. Ideally, the design problem is highly relevant to the students’ field of study, and representative of problems solved by practicing engineers.

In our department, students can select from the following five de facto concentrations: agricultural engineering with soil and water emphasis, agricultural engineering with power- 1 At the time of manuscript preparation, the second years submission had not yet been made. 2 Substantial portions of this paper appeared first as Raman, D. R. and R. E. Yoder, “Using an Engineering Design Competition to Focus a Senior Design Course”, Proceedings of the 1997 ASEE Southeastern Section Meeting, ASEE, 1997.

Yoder, R. E., & Raman, D. R. (1997, June), Relevant Design Experiences For Agricultural And Biosystems Engineers: Team Focus Through Competition Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6763

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