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Senior Capstone: A Cross Disciplinary, Student Centered Approach

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Interdisciplinary Design Projects in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1114.1 - 11.1114.10



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Paper Authors


Mindy Breen Eastern Washington University

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MINDY BREEN received her undergraduate degree in Graphic Design from the University of Notre Dame and her Master of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design from the University of Idaho. She is currently Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design at Eastern Washington University.

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Jason Durfee Eastern Washington University

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JASON DURFEE received his BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young
University. He holds a Professional Engineer certification. Prior to teaching at
Eastern Washington University he was a military pilot, an engineering instructor at West
Point and an airline pilot. His interests include aerospace, aviation, professional
ethics and piano technology.

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

Senior capstone: A cross-disciplinary, student-centered approach


Recently, the Engineering & Design department at Eastern Washington University examined and revised its Senior Capstone curriculum. The new curriculum enables the department’s multiple disciplines to effectively collaborate in a problem-based, student-centered learning environment.

The Engineering & Design department offers eight undergraduate degrees. The diverse degrees include Bachelor of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Manufacturing Technology, Construction Technology, Design Technology, Computer Engineering Technology, Electronics Technology, and Electrical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication Design. The class and coursework are divided into two sections: production and promotion. This division of disciplines and tasks closely resembles industry practice. The production group models itself after a “manufacturing company” that designs and produces a marketable product and the promotion group takes on the roll of an “advertising agency” that promotes the product. This authentic experience gives students the opportunity to participate in the partnership of production and promotion, while gaining insight into their particular role in the relationship.

Thus far, after three quarters of the new Capstone curriculum, student work, comments, and course evaluations reflect that the collaborative, problem-based class provides a unique learning experience for the students. In addition, it is evident that the revised curriculum fosters the successful interaction of multiple disciplines resulting in new levels of synergy, creativity, and productivity. In the revised Capstone, disciplines join together to blend expertise and create an experience that is more comprehensive than any could provide alone.


The goal of any university student when he or she graduates is to be able to find a job that they enjoy and can perform successfully. On the receiving end of the graduating student is a company that expects that their newly-hired graduate will have the necessary skills and background to perform the work that they have hired them to do. As education evolved from a professional trade-apprenticeship model to the institutionalized university model that we enjoy today, there have always been concerns that students may be learning the wrong thing. Specifically, there is a worry that students may become successful at solving homework problems (analysis) and yet not be successful at solving ‘real-world’ problems that they will face after graduation (design).9 In response to this, many institutions developed a senior design course to provide students with an opportunity to work on more open-ended problems. This concept evolved and eventually became the capstone concept that we have today. A capstone course gives the students the opportunity to merge the different areas of knowledge learned in their major studies and use them together to

Breen, M., & Durfee, J. (2006, June), Senior Capstone: A Cross Disciplinary, Student Centered Approach Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--662

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