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The Technical, Process, And Business Considerations For Engineering Design – A 10 Year Retrospective

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Capstone Design Projects

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1256.1 - 15.1256.11



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Paper Authors


William Michalson Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. William R. Michalson is a Professor in the ECE Department at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he performs research and teaches in the areas of navigation, communications and computer system design. He supervises the WPI Center for Advanced Integrated Radio Navigation (CAIRN) where he is developing a Public Safety Integration Center focused on the integration of communications, navigation and information technologies for public safety applications. His research focuses on the development, test, and evaluation of systems for both civilian and military applications with a special emphasis on techniques focused on indoor, underground or otherwise GPS-deprived situations. Most recently, Dr. Michalson has been involved with the development and refinement of the Robotics Engineering curriculum at WPI.

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Stephen Bitar Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Robert Labonté Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Robert Labonté received his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1954 and 1959 respectively. From 1955 to 1959 he was a member of the technical staff of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory Division. In 1959, he joined MITRE Corporation when it was formed from out of MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He retired from MITRE in 1993 and is currently a Professor of Practice in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at WPI where he teaches both introductory and advanced circuit design courses.

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

The Technical, Process, and Business Considerations for Engineering Design – A 10 Year Retrospective


Ten years ago, after undergoing both internal and external review processes, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute determined that, while the vast majority of capstone design projects satisfied our requirements for Capstone Design, there were several disturbing trends.

Specifically, it was noticed that students were lacking the skills to perform serious design synthesis; they were not adequately addressing issues of quality, safety, reliability and maintainability; little attention was being paid to issues associated with economics; students were having difficulty understanding how different areas of Electrical Engineering related to each other; and significant amounts of faculty time were spent teaching project teams the design process.

To correct these problems, a course was developed which focused on teaching students, during their second year, the process of product design. The course specifically included significant class time discussing the business and non-technical implications of the design decisions they make. As initially developed, during the course students not only learned about the business of engineering, they also applied these concepts to create a working product prototype. At the end of the course, students had to subject their designs to a design review where their engineering work and their business plans were evaluated.

As of 2010, the course has been offered twenty times and has become a central part of our ECE curriculum. In addition, the Department has had at least three internal Capstone Design assessments and two ABET reviews (in our last ABET review nearly all ECE students had taken the design course). This historical data allows us to see the effect that the course has had on our students over a significant time span.


The first offering on ECE2799 occurred in 2000. It is important to remember that at that time the ABET Criteria 2000 were just beginning to be implemented within a few universities. The notion of “Capstone Design” as it is known today was relatively new, and was the subject of significant debate.

Although “Capstone Design,” as we know it today, was a relatively new concept in engineering education, in the year 2000 the ability of graduating students to perform a significant design project had been a degree requirement at our university for nearly 25 years. In the year 2000, this design project, called the Major Qualifying Project, or MQP, was an essential part of the educational experience of our students, and provided students an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply the skills they have acquired in their studies to the solution of an

Michalson, W., & Bitar, S., & Labonté, R. (2010, June), The Technical, Process, And Business Considerations For Engineering Design – A 10 Year Retrospective Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16047

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