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The Effects of COVID-19 on Mechanical Engineering Senior Capstone Design Student Self-efficacy and Projects

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Impact of COVID-19 on Design Education 2

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Joanna Tsenn Texas A&M University

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Joanna Tsenn is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. She earned her B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. She coordinates the mechanical engineering senior capstone design projects and teaches senior design lectures and studios. Her research interests include engineering education and engineering design methodology.

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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, protocols were put in place at universities in an effort to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. At Texas A&M University, many traditional face-to-face lectures transitioned into an online format, and facilities, like makerspaces, implemented safety guidelines with occupancy limits and reservation requirements. The changes affected the mechanical engineering senior design students in multiple ways from instructional format to meeting format to prototyping capabilities. In this study, we seek to better understand the effects of these changes on the senior design students.

In Fall 2020, senior design students completed an exit survey to assess their engineering design self-efficacy, or belief in their own ability to complete design tasks. Self-efficacy affects a person’s behavior, and those with high self-efficacy will put forth increased effort, perseverance, and persistence to achieve their goals. Since experience affects engineering design self-efficacy, there was concern that students would not achieve the same level of self-efficacy with the adjusted projects. This study examines how COVID-19 has shaped the students’ capstone experience and their resulting self-confidence. The study found that engineering design self-efficacy was not correlated to instructional format. While a majority of the students noted that they had a project plan change due to COVID-19, most still felt that they were able to complete their project. There was no significant difference in self-efficacy of those that noted a project change and those that did not. The Fall 2020 survey data was then compared to a previous non-COVID-19 semester’s data. There was no statistically significant difference in engineering design self-efficacy or effort put forth on the project between the two groups. Surprisingly, the Fall 2020 COVID-19-affected group had a marginal increase in overall senior design project satisfaction.

Tsenn, J. (2021, July), The Effects of COVID-19 on Mechanical Engineering Senior Capstone Design Student Self-efficacy and Projects Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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