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Students' Experiences with an Open-ended Client Project in a Graduate Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Industrial Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1433.1 - 26.1433.18



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Paper Authors


Jessica L. Heier Stamm Kansas State University

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Jessica L. Heier Stamm is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Kansas State University. She holds a B.S. in industrial engineering from Kansas State University and a Ph.D. in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests include the development of quantitative models and algorithms to design and improve humanitarian relief and public health logistics systems. In particular, she uses operations research and game theory tools to analyze systems in which decisions about system control are made in a decentralized way. This work is complemented by engineering education research in the areas of broadening participation in engineering and enhancing supply chain engineering education.

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Reuben F. Burch V Kansas State University

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Reuben F. Burch V received his Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Mississippi State University in 2014. He has also received a Master of Engineering Management in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Kansas State University and a Bachelors of Science in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State University.
Dr. Burch’s work history largely consists of research and development in the virtual reality space where he consulted for NASA, Naval departments from multiple countries, and the Department of Defense and Energy. Recently, his Research and Development (R&D) expertise has expanded to include logistics and industry. He currently serves as a faculty consultant and logistics and technology advisor for numerous universities and multiple Fortune 100 companies around the world. He is also an elected official for a small municipality in western Tennessee where he works with local entrepreneurs to build a better ecosystems for creativity with the goal of growing a stronger community and workforce.
Dr. Burch’s primary research interests center around human factors, ergonomics, and future generations of technologies. He is particularly interested in the design of and human interaction with rugged mobile tools, robotics, and contextual awareness within the industrial workplace. Other work includes studying the current demographic shift in the global workforce and what new expectations from a self-actualized generation of workers mean for the future of all industrial technology.
Dr. Burch has a number of publications regarding ruggedized handheld devices in the industrial work environment and has filed a number of potential new intellectual properties and inventions as part of his research.

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Hugh R. Medal Mississippi State University

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Dr. Medal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Mississippi State University. His research and teaching interests are in operations research, with a specialty in optimizing the security of networked systems. He has published articles in the European Journal of Operational Research, Computers and Industrial Engineering, the Reliability Engineering and Systems Safety Journal, and Transportation Research Part E, among others. His research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Joint Fire Science Program, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Students' Experiences with an Open-ended Client Project in a Graduate CourseMuch research by the engineering education community concerning student projects has focusedon undergraduate students' experiences with open-ended client projects, for instance, in capstonedesign courses. Comparatively fewer studies have examined graduate students' experiences.Projects with real clients provide benefits for both the students and the company. Students gainexperience applying the course content, have the opportunity to build skills for solvingunstructured problems, and gain exposure to potential employers. Client companies can leveragethe advanced capabilities of graduate students to address business challenges and have theopportunity to interact with and evaluate potential recruits.The successful integration of open-ended client projects into a graduate course poses challengesfor all parties involved. Assessment of students’ experiences with such a project can guidefuture decisions about the structure of such projects that best meets the needs of students, clients,and faculty. This paper presents the results of a study of students’ experiences with an open-ended client project in a graduate course. The study participants are master’s and doctoralstudents at two different universities. Participants at both universities completed the sameproject with the same industry client. Data about students’ experiences were gathered usingthree surveys: one in the project’s early phases, one approximately halfway through the project,and one after project completion.The surveys measured several dimensions of students’ experiences and tracked changes in theseattributes over the course of the project. Specifically, it measured students' confidence in theirown abilities relative to the course content, confidence in the abilities of their teams as a whole,and attributes of projects and client involvement that students find important for their learningexperiences. Student responses were analyzed to gain insight about the following questions:  How does students’ confidence in their own abilities change during the project?  How does students’ confidence in team abilities change during the project?  What characteristics of client projects are most important to students? Characteristics of projects include the level of direct client involvement with the team, perceived impact of the project on the company, and availability of real or realistic data for the project.  How does the fact that the project is for a real client impact levels of stress about the project and the degree to which the project is rewarding for students?  Do these observations differ between on-campus and off-campus (distance learning) students, between master’s and doctoral students, and/or between universities?The paper describes opportunities to use the survey findings to inform graduate course designand project selection.

Heier Stamm, J. L., & Burch, R. F., & Medal, H. R. (2015, June), Students' Experiences with an Open-ended Client Project in a Graduate Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24770

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