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The 2015 Capstone Design Survey: Observations from the Front Lines

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Best of DEED

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Susannah Howe Smith College

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Susannah Howe, Ph.D. is the Design Clinic Director in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, where she coordinates and teaches the capstone engineering design course. Her current research focuses on innovations in engineering design education, particularly at the capstone level. She is invested in building the capstone design community; she is a leader in the biannual Capstone Design Conferences and the Capstone Design Hub initiative. She is also involved with efforts to foster design learning in middle school students and to support entrepreneurship at primarily undergraduate institutions. Her background is in civil engineering with a focus on structural materials. She holds a B.S.E. degree from Princeton, and M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell.

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Sophia L. Poulos Smith College

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Sophia Poulos is a 2016 engineering graduate from Smith College. She is interested in structural engineering and has worked on earthquake engineering projects with NEES@UCLA. She is a research assistant on the CDHub 2.0 initiative and innovations in engineering design education at the capstone level. She is pursuing a masters degree in structural engineering at the University of California Davis.

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Laura Mae Rosenbauer Smith College

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Laura Rosenbauer is a student in the Smith College Picker Engineering Program. Laura is currently working with Director of the Design Clinic, Susannah Howe; and 2016 Smith Engineering graduate, Sophia Poulos on innovations in engineering design education at the capstone level.

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Capstone design courses offer engineering students a culminating design experience on an applied engineering project, but the structure, logistics, and implementation of capstone courses varies widely. The 2015 Capstone Design Survey, conducted in spring 2015, continued the decennial census of capstone design courses to catalog current practices, identify emerging trends, and provide historical comparison. The survey reprised many of the questions from its 1994 and 2005 predecessors, augmented with additional questions based on other capstone-related surveys, design education conference topics, and open-ended responses. The survey was completed by 522 respondents representing 256 institutions across the U.S., including a handful of programs in other countries. This paper focuses specifically on the qualitative responses from the 2015 Capstone Design Survey, including capstone instructors’ first-hand experiences and implementation practices. These qualitative data serve as a candid window into capstone design practices through the experiences of those who coordinate it, raising issues and highlighting current practices in engineering capstone design education to guide further development in the field.

Howe, S., & Poulos, S. L., & Rosenbauer, L. M. (2016, June), The 2015 Capstone Design Survey: Observations from the Front Lines Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26085

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