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The Community Based Capstone Design Experience: More Than Meets The Eye

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Partnerships in IE Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1109.1 - 8.1109.5



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Paper Authors

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Joseph Emanuel

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

Session 3657

The Community Based Capstone Design Experience: More than Meets the Eye

Joseph T. Emanuel Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and Technology Bradley University

Abstract For the past 36 years, Bradley University’s Industrial Engineering program has used community- based projects as the basis for the Capstone Design experience. For the past 25 years, the “clients” for these projects have been asked to pay for the service provided. The course emphasizes real-world team problem solving and the need for strong written and oral communication skills. Such a course prepares the students to work in industry following graduation and also provides the industries involved with excellent solutions to some of their problems. This paper presents many of the secondary benefits that go beyond the immediate impact on the students, the client and the department.

Background Since 1967, Bradley’s Industrial Engineering program has completed more than 250 capstone design projects for more than 100 area and regional clients. In all cases, the primary objective has been (1) to provide the students with a high quality professional educational experience and (2) to help the client solve a significant problem. Our experience has been that meeting the second objective also fulfills the first objective.1

The format for the capstone design course is a one-semester, 3 or 4 people per team project. The problems are all obtained from and funded by local and regional industries. Being able to convince industry to pay for the project is the result of establishing a record of many years of providing quality solutions to significant industry problems. Having all projects funded is a critical consideration as the quality of the problem and the expected return significantly increases when industry is paying for the project.

Each project team is assisted by an internal steering committee of 2-5 key individuals from the client’s organization and a faculty team of 2-4 members. The faculty team is the same for each project, an element that insures consistently higher quality results. This also tends to result in the team solving the “real” problem rather than trying to make the problem a quality problem or a facility layout problem or an ergonomics problem. For a complete discussion of the organization and management of the project course together with the impact on industry, see Emanuel (2001).

Two communication experts also support the student team. The written communication expert teaches the Technical Writing class taken currently with the design course by all project team members and an oral communication expert who has over 12 years of experience working with past departmental design teams. For a complete presentation of the integration of communication skills into the design course, see Emanuel, Kerns and Kumpf (2002).

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Emanuel, J. (2003, June), The Community Based Capstone Design Experience: More Than Meets The Eye Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12261

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