New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Design in Engineering Education
This work in progress describes a cohort study of a recent modification to a well-established capstone engineering design program to incorporate multidisciplinary student teams. As such, it presents a unique opportunity to evaluate student outcomes as it relates to working within multidisciplinary versus single-disciplinary teams for substantive engineering design projects. There has been much emphasis placed on the benefits of multidisplinary instruction and teaming with little empirical evidence to support such claims, in part because opportunities to directly compare multidisciplinary versus single-disciplinary teaming experiences are relatively rare.
The capstone engineering course, Senior Design, historically has been a 6-credit, one semester course in fall semester for senior mechanical engineering undergraduates at a mid-sized, research-intensive university. For the past decade, Senior Design has involved teams of 4-5 students working on one of 15-25 projects sponsored by local industry, engineering firms, and in some instances industry-affiliated academic groups. A team of 4-6 full and part-time mechanical engineering faculty manages the course; each faculty member advises 3-5 teams each. Beginning Fall 2013, the newly formed biomedical engineering program adopted the mechanical engineering model for Senior Design and merged a large cohort of its students into interdisciplinary teams with mechanical engineers. Biomedical engineering faculty also began advising select teams, in partnership with mechanical engineering faculty. Multidisciplinary projects are exclusively focused on the biomedical sector, and project sponsors represent the biotech industry, the clinical sector, and non-profit and start-up entities. A relatively small number of electrical and environmental engineers also joined the multidisciplinary program beginning in 2013. While 30-40% of mechanical engineering students and 75-90% of biomedical engineering students select multidisciplinary projects, there are cohorts who work on teams composed exclusively of students within their major.
The rollout of the multidisciplinary senior design program and the existence of sub-sections of the program that remain single-disciplinary provide us with a unique opportunity to study short- and long-term effects of multidisciplinary teaming on student outcomes. We are conducting an online follow-up study of students who have completed the course since its redesign in 2012. The survey focuses on the impact of team composition on short-term measures such as perception of project outcome and team dynamics and long-term measures such as job placement and performance, particularly as it relates to communication and team dynamics. We anticipate the findings from this work-in-progress study will provide empirical support for multidisciplinary experiences for students by highlighting short and long-term educational and career-development benefits.
Buckley, J., & Trauth, A., & Stephens, J. S., & Rooney, S. I., & Roberts, D. (2016, June), Student Benefits of Multidisciplinary versus Single-Disciplinary Design Experiences: A Cohort Study of a Capstone Design Program Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25900
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