June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1051.1 - 14.1051.9
Capstone Projects for Engineering Technology: Issues, Benefits and Trade-offs Abstract
Capstone courses in our engineering technology (ET) programs are structured as open-ended undertakings where students are expected to creatively analyze, synthesize, and apply a wide- variety of learning outcomes from prior coursework. A capstone project may either be industry- sponsored or internally-sourced with student teams advised by faculty and engineers from local companies. The team’s goal is to meet the deliverables required by the proposal or statement of work. The semester culminates with a formal presentation of results evaluated by a professional panel of practitioners and a final report substantiating the results and findings.
Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) seniors are tasked to solve multi-disciplinary problems based on a statement of work initiated by a sponsoring local company. Electronic Engineering Technology (EET) projects originate internally in the form of proposals developed jointly by students and faculty with the objective being to design, construct and test a prototype system.
A quality project requires faculty, sponsors and students to weigh a number of issues. Those that have no practical value or that merely serve the short term needs of an industry sponsor are not suitable. Another challenge is setting the scope of work and level of difficulty to be appropriate for ET seniors. Successful project management among the team members and their relationship to the faculty and external sponsors requires an array of communication and soft skills. Resources must be factored into the planning process: e.g. fabrication capabilities, technical support and/or the cost of purchased components/services. In small teaching institutions, the above issues are especially critical and must be carefully weighed.
This paper discusses the structure, approach and evolution of capstone projects within our College. It compares and contrasts the differences between industry-sponsored and internally- sourced projects. The elements of project structure, resource trade-offs and successful execution are addressed as well as the issues and benefits experienced by students, faculty and industry sponsors.
Capstone project courses are a vital element in engineering technology (ET) programs. Since capstone courses are integrating experiences and appear prominently in assessment plans, successful programs are highly dependent on the resulting performance of students. Efforts to improve capstone quality have been the subject of much work in recent years. The primary motivations behind capstone improvements are: increasing industry relevance, showcasing graduate skills and the desire of faculty to adopt new best practices. However, it has been observed that too often students lack the necessary creativity, initiative and ability to develop robust solutions. Some have addressed this issue by developing innovative laboratory structures throughout the curriculum that better prepare seniors for the challenge1. Others have sought to connect students with local industry either prior to or during the capstone project2-8.
Milanovic, I., & Eppes, T. (2009, June), Senior Design Projects For Engineering Technology: Issues, Benefits, And Trade Offs Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4511
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