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Student-created Canvases as a Way to Inform Decision-making in a Capstone Design Sequence

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Joe Tranquillo Bucknell University

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Dr. Joseph (Joe) Tranquillo is an Associate Professor at Bucknell University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, He is also co-director of the Institute for Leadership in Technology and Management, co-director of the KEEN Winter Interdisciplinary Design Program, and chair of the Biomedical Engineering Division of ASEE. Tranquillo has published three undergraduate textbooks and numerous engineering education publications, and has presented internationally on engineering and education. His work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, CNN Heath and TEDx. He was a US Case Professor of the Year nominee and a National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education faculty member.

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William A. Kline Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Bill Kline is Professor of Engineering Management and Associate Dean of Innovation at Rose-Hulman. His teaching and professional interests include systems engineering, quality, manufacturing systems, innovation, and entrepreneurship. As Associate Dean, he directs the Branam Innovation Center which houses campus competition teams, maker club, and projects.

He is currently an associate with IOI Partners, a consulting venture focused on innovation tools and systems. Prior to joining Rose-Hulman, he was a company co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Montronix, a company in the global machine monitoring industry.

Bill is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Illinois College and a Bronze Tablet graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where he received a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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Cory Hixson Rowan University

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Cory is currently an Assistant Professor of Experiential Engineering Education (ExEEd) at Rowan University. He earned his B.S. in Engineering Science (2007), M.S. in Industrial and System Engineering (2014) and Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2016). Cory has experience as both a professional engineer and high school educator. His professional and research interests are understanding the interaction between engineering education pedagogy and entrepreneurship, faculty technology commercialization experiences, and institutional policies that influence both engineering education and entrepreneurship.

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Canvases, most especially the Business Model Canvas, are being used in a variety of educational settings ranging from curricular to extracurricular. In past studies, the authors have dissected a range of canvases and have proposed a systems approach to understanding how canvases work in practice. In brief, a canvas represents the critical elements of a real world system that must be considered when a new value proposition is being introduced that will change that system. As such, a canvas helps focus a change agent on the most important levers within a system, and provides them with a framework for making decisions in volatile and ambiguous environments. The fact that a canvas is one page and graphical means that it can enable a more holistic view of a problem and solution. One of the key insights from this systems analysis was that a canvas could also serve as a framework within a classroom to guide student learning.

In this work, the authors introduce a specific approach for utilizing the canvas concept in an engineering design capstone sequence; to have student teams develop their own canvases. In this context the canvas is a tool for thinking through decisions, such that these decisions can be justified to an audience who might never see the canvas. For example, when presented with a large list of potential design problems, students create a canvas with boxes corresponding to the important determining factors of success (e.g. interest, technical alignment, value, scope). The faculty may refine these boxes, thereby better communicating the expectations of the design project. With a canvas, students can then compare problems on equal terms. When information is not available, a question mark may signify that an action item should be issued to do more research. The effect of this approach is different than the traditional decision matrix used in most design courses, because the canvas prompts a more iterative and data driven approach.

Student-created canvases have been tested for the past two years in a senior capstone sequence. The paper will explain the specific assignments and classroom activities, such as the example above, as well as how in later stages of the design process (e.g. validation, final presentations), students may create canvases without any faculty involvement. Examples of student-created canvases will be shown, along with student perspectives on how canvases impacted their experience navigating the capstone. The faculty perspective will be included, focusing on how student-created canvases help students take more responsibility for their decisions. Student perceptions will also be reported on how self-created canvases have guided their decisions within the design process.

Tranquillo, J., & Kline, W. A., & Hixson, C. (2018, June), Student-created Canvases as a Way to Inform Decision-making in a Capstone Design Sequence Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31020

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