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The Unrecognized Side Of Senior Capstone Design

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.652.1 - 5.652.5

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Jeffrey L. Ray

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

Session 2625

The Unrecognized Side of Senior Capstone Design

Jeffrey L. Ray

Padnos School of Engineering Grand Valley State University Grand Rapids, Michigan


An innovative approach to the interdisciplinary, senior capstone design course at Grand Valley State University is outlined. During the first semester students select a project and are assigned to a project team. The teams then prepare design proposals for review by the sponsor companies. The second semester encompasses student teams refining designs, purchasing materials, building, and testing a device or product. Projects are predominantly sponsored by area manufacturers. This past year a professional development seminar approach was implemented during the first semester of the course. Rather than the traditional review of subjects taught in many capstone courses, professional development training modules were used. Such modules are currently being offered in a variety of corporations to promote collaborative work environments. Each week a different topic is introduced during the lecture portion, followed by a subsequent lab period devoted to practice-oriented, hands-on team exercises. Topics covered during the course include team building, conflict resolution, time and stress management, resource availability, communication skills, and leadership. Additionally project and budget management techniques are presented. The remainder of the semester is used for student teams to prepare their design proposals and obtain sponsor approval for project implementation. Discussion of the professional development modules and exercises developed are presented.


Engineering employers are demanding more and more of current and future engineering graduates. One concern is the lack of soft skills new engineering graduates possess, which is supported by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Manufacturing Education Plan (MEP)1 . Several skills have been identified as competency gaps in today’s engineering education. The ability to communicate effectively, working in interdisciplinary teams, and management skills are examples cited. One driving force behind the demand is today’s engineering graduate will most likely assume a management position within five years of graduation.

Several universities have initiated a two-semester industry-sponsored capstone design course. The implementation of interdisciplinary senior capstone courses provides an avenue to address the absence of such skills in modern curriculums. The ABET EC 2000 criteria2 also requires attainment of certain minimal abilities including:

Ray, J. L. (2000, June), The Unrecognized Side Of Senior Capstone Design Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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