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The Senior Design Process At Purdue University

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Teaching Outside the Box in Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1323.1 - 10.1323.11



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Paper Authors

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Vincent Drnevich

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

The Senior Design Process at Purdue University Vincent P. Drnevich, P.E., Ph.D. Purdue University


This paper examines the participation of practitioners in senior design based on experience at Purdue University where senior design involves all seniors in their last semester before graduation and is titled “Civil Engineering Design Project”. It is described in the catalog as “Planning, design, and analysis of a civil project; an integrated and realistic group project involving as much as possible all major aspects of the civil engineering profession.” This high enrollment course (30 to 100 students per semester) has been taught since the early 1960’s and there have been many approaches to teaching it. Involvement of practitioners has varied from nearly no involvement through nearly total responsibility for the course. The author has observed the teaching of this course for thirteen years and has the lead responsibility for the course in the spring semester for the past four years. The paper describes the course and approaches to teaching it and will summarize observations of what worked well and what did not work well regarding the involvement of practitioners. Recommendations are made for effective use of practitioners in senior design.

Introduction and Background on Senior Design

The capstone design course in Civil Engineering at Purdue University, CE498 has been ongoing since 1960. Drnevich1 provided the evolution of this course from 1960 to 2001. A summary of these will be provided herein. Table 1 lists the projects designed in this course. Perusal of the table indicates significant diversity of project types. Most of the projects are real in the sense that they were either in consideration or in process at the time that they were being designed in the course. Students worked with actual project information and generally had to diligently search to obtain that information. Design products of the course were not used in the actual construction, but in many cases had an influence on actual designs. This occurred because persons actually involved in the real projects almost always participated in the course. Hence, the definition of “practitioner” associated with this course is a broad one that includes: 1. Practicing engineers who are engaged in the design of the actual or similar projects; 2. Contractors who have to estimate, bid on, and build the actual or similar projects; 3. Owners (or owner’s representatives such as engineers in Purdue’s Physical Facilities Department and the Indiana Department of Transportation); 4. Users of the projects who critique functionality and serviceability of the facility; 5. Engineers who represent vendors and associations of engineered products and design software; 6. Professionals associated with human resource, finance, marketing, and business issues; 7. Public officials who represent the community’s perspective; and 8. The Civil Engineering Advisory Council members who periodically review the course.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Drnevich, V. (2005, June), The Senior Design Process At Purdue University Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15070

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