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Using Mini Design Competitions in Capstone

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Capstone Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1327.1 - 23.1327.16



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Paper Authors


Joseph Anders Wahlquist US Air Force Academy

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Joseph Wahlquist is an instructor in the department of engineering mechanics at the United States Air Force Academy. He teaches courses in Mechanical Behavior of Material and leads a Capstone Design team focusing on Small Unmanned Aerial Systems. He received his MS in Aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton Ohio and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah. He has also worked as a structural engineer on the F-16 and a mechanical systems engineer for the F-4, F-5, T-37, T-38 and OV-10.

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Daniel D. Jensen U.S. Air Force Academy

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Dr. Dan Jensen is a Professor of Engineering Mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy where he has been since 1997. He received his B.S. (Mechanical Engineering), M.S. (Applied Mechanics) and Ph.D. (Aerospace Engineering Science) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has worked for Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, NASA, University of the Pacific, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and MSC Software Corp. His research includes design of Micro Air Vehicles, development of innovative design methodologies and enhancement of engineering education. Dr Jensen has authored approximately 100 papers and has been awarded over $3 million of research grants.

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Kristin L. Wood P.E. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

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Kyle Fitle U.S. Air Force Academy

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David Carte U.S. Air Force Academy

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Using Competitions to Teach the Design ProcessFor many senior undergraduate engineering students, the capstone design project is their firstsubstantial experience implementing the design process. As such, some capstone teamsexperience difficulty with the design process when they do not grasp the importance ofunderstanding customer needs and establishing design requirements before proceeding tosubsequent portions of the project. This frequently leads to serious issues as teams realize theirdesign or product does not do what the customer wants it to do. In an effort to help studentsbetter understand how gathering customer needs and translating them into requirements willimpact the overall project; some capstone students were given the opportunity to participate in ashort design competition where they were tasked to construct classroom demonstrations. Thesestudents were given two weeks to go through the entire design process and produce classroomdemos which were evaluated by instructors for their usefulness in teaching. In the currentresearch, this set of students forms the “experimental” group. Other students were given anoverview of the design process as part of their initiation into their capstone project, but did nothave the opportunity to experience an initial implementation of the design process prior to theirfull implementation for their capstone project. This set of students forms the control group.It was hypothesized that using the students time in the design competition would get studentsmore excited for their capstone project, help them be more comfortable using the lab equipment,and most importantly help them better understand the design process. Both quantitative andqualitative measures were used to assess the utility of the short design competition. To measurestudent understanding of the design process a quiz was administered both before and after theshort design project and scores from the experimental and control groups were compared.Additionally, students were asked to rate their level of excitement for their capstone project andtheir familiarity with lab equipment.Early qualitative assessment by capstone instructors indicates that students who were exposed tothe short design exercise have a better understanding of why they are using the design tools ontheir actual capstone project. Additionally quiz scores indicated a slightly more rapid increase inunderstanding of the design process, familiarity with lab equipment, and interest in theircapstone project. Initial results indicate that design competitions are a beneficial tool inincreasing overall productivity of capstone teams and are a productive investment of studenttime. This paper reports on the details of the short design competition, the specifics of theassessment instruments and the details of the qualitative and quantitative assessment results.

Wahlquist, J. A., & Jensen, D. D., & Wood, K. L., & Fitle, K., & Carte, D. (2013, June), Using Mini Design Competitions in Capstone Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22712

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