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Using Rubrics For The Assessment Of Senior Design Projects

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Capstone Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1409.1 - 11.1409.19



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Paper Authors


John K. Estell Ohio Northern University

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JOHN K. ESTELL is Chair of the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science Department at Ohio Northern University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His areas of research include simplifying the outcomes assessment process, user interface design, and the pedagogical aspects of writing computer games. Dr. Estell is a Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM, ASEE, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

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Juliet Hurtig Ohio Northern University

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JULIET K. HURTIG is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Assistant Dean of the T.J. Smull College of Engineering at Ohio Northern University. Her doctorate is from The Ohio State University. Research interests include control systems, nonlinear system identification, and undergraduate pedagogical methods. Dr. Hurtig is a member of IEEE, ASEE, and Tau Beta Pi.

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

Using Rubrics for the Assessment of Senior Design Projects


The process of evaluating senior design projects typically involves assessing reports and presentations, then assigning relatively broad performance categories to the work. Unfortunately, the use of professional judgment in this process varies from faculty member to faculty member; as a consequence, one person's "excellent" can be another person's "very good." The lack of standard definitions for such terms act as an impedance toward fair and impartial grading of student performance.

At its 2002 Faculty Retreat, the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science (ECCS) Department at Ohio Northern University examined the effectiveness of the senior design evaluation process. Senior design at this school is a year-long endeavor, with multiple teams of faculty grading several capstone projects each at the end of each quarter. The differences between the individual graders and between each team of graders were readily apparent, making it difficult to negotiate to a final fair course letter grade for the students. Accordingly, standard definitions were developed in the form of rubrics for each one of the four communication formats utilized in our senior design sequence. These rubrics are distributed at the beginning of each term to both students and faulty. The written report evaluation is conducted through the use of three separate rubrics: writing style, technical design, and consideration factors for addressing the coverage of multiple realistic design constraints as called for in the ABET Criteria. Each student team is required to make two oral presentations throughout the capstone process; a rubric specific to oral presentations guides these evaluations. External evaluators are invited to campus to judge the senior design poster competition, and these individuals follow a rubric specific to the poster format. A final rubric focuses on web site design, where students provide an overview of their project and the results obtained.

Since the inclusion of rubrics in the 2002-2003 academic year, subsequent evaluations performed at annual Faculty Retreats have indicated that the rubrics have been a successful model for conducting the evaluation of the various aspects of the senior design experience. Additionally, by coalescing subjective faculty judgments into an objective numerical form through the use of rubrics, the results can be readily used for program outcomes assessment. As a result of this methodology, what was once considered to be essentially a random process by the students is now a more uniform process grounded in a fundamental set of definitions accessible by all.

I. Senior Design Sequence

All seniors in the College of Engineering are required to complete a capstone project. The senior capstone project is not the student’s first exposure to formal design work; however, it does challenge students to draw from all of their previous coursework and complete a design that is large enough in scope to require a team effort and a six-month time period. The ECCS Department developed a year-long, three course senior design sequence common to all majors offered in the department.1 This approach allows students to work on interdisciplinary comprehensive projects, and also allows for participation on interdepartmental teams. The students are presented with a mixture of faculty- and industry-sponsored projects and are

Estell, J. K., & Hurtig, J. (2006, June), Using Rubrics For The Assessment Of Senior Design Projects Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--486

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