June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Design in Engineering Education
12.1328.1 - 12.1328.8
Success Strategies for Capstone Design Courses with Large Classes, Diverse Project Types, Small to Large Student Teams, and Varied Faculty Interests and Approaches
Capstone design courses are a core part of curricula across engineering disciplines. Such courses offer students the opportunity to bring together, assimilate and apply the knowledge they have acquired over their entire undergraduate academic program. Projects are often real world problems that are less well specified than those encountered in prior courses and may challenge student teams beyond familiar bounds required of less challenging projects. Identifying projects, recruiting faculty advisors for projects, and providing meaningful class lectures to seniors that will be both interesting and useful to successful projects are typical challenges of such courses. Numerous other challenges emerge when the class size is large. During the 2006/07 academic year, there are over 280 seniors enrolled in the 2-semester capstone design course sequence in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. This paper will convey the wide variety of challenges and provide specific strategies that have been used for success in an environment where 1) the types of projects are very diverse in terms of difficulty, application domain, and scope, 2) team sizes vary from 4 members to over 30 members, and 3) the interests and approaches of faculty advisors are quite varied.
Background and Motivation
The capstone senior design course sequence, ME 4015 – 4016, includes more than twenty-five different projects, with nearly as many different faculty advisors. The course sequence also offers our students several different project options: design projects closely connected to funded research, or projects proposed and sponsored by private industry, and yet others that involve national and international competitions. Such diversity is one of the course strengths, giving students a choice in their design experience. Recognizing the diversity among our design projects, it is important for all of our students to achieve, in the course of their senior design experience, a consistent set of course objectives, regardless of the project they select. To achieve a degree of consistency among our senior design projects, while embracing the diversity of our projects, a new policy has been developed that includes a set of common course objectives, deliverables, and evaluation practices. A committee of 6 faculty members representing experiences with large teams, small teams, competition teams, industrially sponsored teams, the course coordinator, and undergraduate program director for Mechanical Engineering participated in the development of this new policy for our senior design course sequence. The following sections describe the new policy, course format and procedures, and support provided to students and faculty.
Terpenny, J., & Dancey, C., & Nelson, D., & Ellis, M., & Goff, R., & Hong, D. (2007, June), Success Strategies For Capstone Design Courses With Large Classes, Diverse Project Types, Small To Large Student Teams, And Varied Faculty Interests And Approaches Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2770
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