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The Montana MULE: A Case Study in Interdisciplinary Capstone Design

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1482.1 - 22.1482.12



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Paper Authors


Brock J. LaMeres Montana State University

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Dr. Brock J. LaMeres is an Assistant Professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Montana State University (MSU). LaMeres teaches and conducts research in the area of digital systems and engineering education. LaMeres is currently studying the effectiveness of online delivery of engineering education including the impact of remote laboratory experiences. LaMeres is also studying the pedagogical impact of interdisciplinary capstone projects compared to traditional discipline-specific design projects. LaMeres’ research group is also studying the effective hardware/software partitioning using reprogrammable fabrics. This work involves exploiting the flexibility of modern FPGAs to optimize the performance of a digital system depending on the application need (i.e., performance, power, size, or fault tolerance). LaMeres' research is sponsored by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Montana Space Grant Consortium, the National Space Grant Consortium, and the Office of Naval Research.

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Ahsan Mian Montana State University

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Ahsan Mian received the B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangladesh, in 1988 and 1992, the M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL, in 1996, and the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Auburn University, Auburn, AL, in 2000. He joined the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Montana State University (MSU), Bozeman, as an Assistant Professor in 2005. He was a visiting faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering Department, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, prior to joining MSU. From 2000 to 2002, he worked as a Designer for Visteon Corporation’s Automotive Electronics Division located in Dearborn, MI. He also served as a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, BUET, from 1988 to 1993. His research interests include micro and macromechanics of advanced materials and systems. He has authored over 70 technical publication. Dr. Mian is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Materials Research Society, the Society for Experimental Mechanics, and Phi Kappa Phi.

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Hunter Lloyd Montana State University

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Robb Larson, P.E. Montana State University

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The Montana MULE: A Case Study in Interdisciplinary Capstone Design In May of 2010, NASA held the 1st annual Lunabotics Mining Competition at theKennedy Space Center in Florida. In this competition, 22 teams from across the nationbuilt remote-controlled, robotic excavators to mine lunar regolith simulant. The winnerof the competition was the team who could successfully deposit the most regolith into acollector in 15 minutes. The goal of this competition was to encourage multidisciplinarycapstone design projects. Of the 22 teams that participated in the competition, the“Montana MULE” from Montana State University (MSU) was the only robot tosuccessfully mine the qualifying weight of 10kg and ultimately deposited 22.6kg to takefirst place at the competition. The interdisciplinary capstone team that was assembled atMSU consisted of 8 students and 5 faculty advisors from 4 different departments andrepresented the largest multidisciplinary project ever attempted in the College ofEngineering. This paper will present an overview of the multidisciplinary capstoneproject and detail the challenges of administering such a large capstone team. Theseinclude coordination of schedules, deliverables, and student supervision. The assessmentstrategy will also be presented and the challenges will be discussed. Student surveyresults are presented between students participating in this interdisciplinary project versusstudents working on traditional, discipline specific projects in order to gauge the potentialimpact of offering this type of experience. Recommendations and lessons-learned willalso be presented in order to assist faculty at other institutions in implementing similarmultidisciplinary projects.

LaMeres, B. J., & Mian, A., & Lloyd, H., & P.E., R. L. (2011, June), The Montana MULE: A Case Study in Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18894

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