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Teaching Multidisciplinary Design To Engineering Students: Robotics Capstone

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Capstone Design Projects

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1180.1 - 15.1180.13



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Paper Authors

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Taskin Padir Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Fred Looft Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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William Michalson Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Michael Ciaraldi Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Eben Cobb Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Kenneth Stafford Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Multidisciplinary Design to Engineering Students: Robotics Capstone Abstract

Robotics Engineering (RBE) is a new undergraduate degree program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). As of the fall semester of 2008, the program is the fourth largest discipline at the institution in terms of freshman enrollment. At the core of the curriculum are four signature courses called Unified Robotics I-IV. The educational objective of these courses is to introduce students to the multidisciplinary theory and practice of robotics engineering, integrating the fields of computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. In addition to taking these and other courses, it is a requirement that all WPI undergraduates, regardless of discipline, complete a senior-level project in their major field of study called Major Qualifying Project (MQP). This paper discusses the capstone design experience within the context of our new RBE degree program. Topics covered include the problem of teaching multidisciplinary design to senior engineering students working on solving real-world problems engineering design problems and a discussion of our capstone design evaluation criteria, particularly as it applies to a multidisciplinary program. Finally, learning outcomes specifically designed for the senior-design and sample projects completed by robotics engineering students that illustrate our approach to designing this new robotics engineering program at the undergraduate level are presented.


Considering the fact that engineering students of 2010 will still be professionally active in 2050, their engineering education today should be broad enough for them to generate solutions to meet the new requirements of the global industry and society [1-3]. To achieve a smooth transition from academia to industry, there should be an agreement between the desired outcomes of engineering curricula and the desired attributes of an engineer defined by the industry. In other words, the graduates of engineering programs must have a set of basic skills to meet the needs of the industry and society. A good understanding of engineering science, a good understanding of engineering design process, a multidisciplinary perspective, excellent communication skills, high ethical standards, critical and creative thinking, an appreciation of the importance of teamwork, an awareness of economic, environmental and societal issues, and a desire for life-long learning are among the attributes forming the interface between the engineering education and the engineering practice [4,5]. In an attempt to build on this interface, engineering programs strive to meet the well-known ABET (a)-(k) criteria presented in Table 1.

One key component of providing a broad education is the multidisciplinary experience gained by working on projects that are open-ended and complex and attempt to provide solutions to practical real-world problems. This is why teaching multidisciplinary design to engineering students especially at the senior level has been the motivation for engineering educators to adopt innovative approaches within engineering curricula [6-9]. Excellent examples of industry sponsored or competition-driven capstone design projects are reported in the literature [10-13]. These open-ended and complex projects attempt to provide a solution to a practical real-world

Padir, T., & Looft, F., & Michalson, W., & Ciaraldi, M., & Cobb, E., & Stafford, K. (2010, June), Teaching Multidisciplinary Design To Engineering Students: Robotics Capstone Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16452

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