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Using Mini-projects to Foster Student Collaboration in Multi-disciplinary Capstone Design Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone and International Experiences

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1431.1 - 25.1431.14



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Paper Authors


Richard S. Stansbury Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

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Richard S. Stansbury is an Associate Professor of computer engineering and computer science in the Department of Electrical, Computer, Software, and Systems Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla. He teaches courses in artificial intelligence, data structures and algorithms, and the capstone senior design course. His research interests include unmanned aircraft, mobile robotics, and applied artificial intelligence.

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William C. Barott Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

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Salamah Salamah Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

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Using Mini-Projects to Foster Student Collaboration in Multi-Disciplinary Capstone Design CourseWith a strong emphasis in multi-disciplinary teaming and projects by accreditation organizationssuch as ABET, and the need from industry to hire students with such a background, the twosemester capstone design sequence at the author’s department has combined students from fourdegree programs: computer engineering, electrical engineering, and software engineering. Thiscourse is co-instructed by three faculty: one software engineering, one computer engineering,and one electrical engineering. While this approach provides the students with the desiredexperience in working in multi-disciplinary teams, it also comes with its share of challenges forboth faculty and students.For the students, the challenges include a lack of familiarity of concepts, terminologies, tools,and methodologies across disciplines. For example, students in electrical engineering may havevery little exposure to some of the engineering processes more common with software andsystems engineering. Similarly, software engineers have little exposure with electricalengineering concepts or working with physical hardware. A second major challenge is thatstudents are unaware of the expectations and structure of the capstone project environment.For the faculty, each academic year introduces a new cohort of students. It is difficult for facultymembers to know the strengths, weaknesses, interpersonal issues, etc. of all of the students in theclass. This makes it difficult to assign the students to teams because they are unaware of eachstudent’s level of knowledge, work ethic, and leadership.To address these challenges, the authors have introduced the notion of mini-projects to theircapstone design course sequence. A mini-project is a small project that is designed for a smallgroup of students (4 to 5) working on a task for about two weeks. Each team is made up ofstudents from all three of the engineering disciplines. The three mini-projects include elementsof computer engineering, software engineering, and electrical engineering, which allows eachstudent to demonstrate their unique skills to the problem at hand. The students are expected tofollow the agile design methodologies, which are utilized throughout the semester. At the end ofthe project, written deliverables and a demonstration are provided by the students.In this paper, the authors highlight their experiences using mini-projects for their capstone designcourse. Each of the mini-projects will be presented in detail. The authors shall discuss whichelements of the mini-project worked, and which did not. The paper also includes studentfeedback regarding the process derived from student surveys and their peer evaluations. Finally,suggestions are made regarding how these projects would be used for future academic years.

Stansbury, R. S., & Barott, W. C., & Salamah, S. (2012, June), Using Mini-projects to Foster Student Collaboration in Multi-disciplinary Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22188

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