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Student-Generated Metrics as a Predictor of Success in Capstone Design

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Capstone Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1128.1 - 24.1128.13



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Paper Authors


Bridget M. Smyser Northeastern University

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Assistant Academic Specialist and Lab Director

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Beverly Kris Jaeger Northeastern University

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Beverly Kris Jaeger, PhD has been a member of Northeastern University’s Gateway Team, a selected group of full-time faculty expressly devoted to the First-year Engineering Program at Northeastern University. Recently, she has joined the expanding Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at NU to continue teaching Simulation, Facilities Planning, Human-Machine Systems, and Senior Capstone Design. Dr. Jaeger has been the recipient of several honors in engineering education for both teaching and mentoring and has been involved in several award-wining engineering educational research initiatives through ASEE and beyond.

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Student-Generated Metrics as a Predictor of Success in Capstone DesignThe Capstone Design sequence in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering program atUnnamed University has a longstanding emphasis on building prototypes to solve real-worldproblems sponsored by industry and research faculty. Industrial Engineers (IE), by the nature oftheir discipline, often work on problems that do not involve a physical object. Instead, the IEdeliverables may be simulations, facility layouts, procedural modifications, databases, or otherprocesses or products less tangible than a physical prototype. Previous work by one of theauthors presented a scheme for evaluating prototypes based on examination of the ExecutiveSummary document written three weeks before the end of the Capstone course. For the presentwork, this same evaluation scheme was applied to the Industrial Engineering projects presentedduring the past seven years. The goal was to determine if particular student skills or practices ledto higher quality projects with an eye toward enhancing those skills in struggling groups.Preliminary data shows that high performing groups tend to develop more specific metrics in theearly stages of the project by which they will define success. Numerical goals and specificationsand/or quantifiable results were also evident in all of the highest performing groups. In contrast,lower performing groups as measured by a standard prototype evaluation metric tended to havevague or ill-defined specifications, or did not apply numerical goals or evaluation practices totheir design problems. This could indicate that more guidance into developing numerical goalsand identifiable and trackable performance metrics –particularly in the problem formulationphase– would allow groups to have a more concrete target to aim for. Results from additionalanalysis showed that hybrid groups comprised of IE who worked on joint projects with theirMechanical Engineering (ME) counterparts seemed to perform at or below average as measuredby the same rubric. Further, the hybrid projects did not show strong evidence of applied IEconcepts. This–and experiential evidence– indicate that additional guidance is needed to guideMechanical Engineering group members away from ‘taking over’ the project and bending thefocus predominantly to a physical prototype. This is a concern as interdisciplinary projects arebecoming more common and more fitting, both in the department of interest and throughout theengineering community. Evidence from this study will be used to open a dialog around this topicand help faculty (1) guide teams toward potential success through rigorous and timely definitionsof success metrics and (2) develop specific interventions to manage the interplay betweeninterdisciplinary engineering students in future projects.

Smyser, B. M., & Jaeger, B. K. (2014, June), Student-Generated Metrics as a Predictor of Success in Capstone Design Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23061

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