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Work in Progress: Veterinary Medicine as a Context for Student Reasoning in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Perspectives and Evaluation of Engineering Design Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Isabella Stuopis Tufts University

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PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University. Interests: undergraduate learning, learning outside of the classroom setting, collaboration in engineering, learning assistants

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Kristen B. Wendell Tufts University

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Kristen Wendell is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education at Tufts University. Her research efforts at at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach focus on supporting discourse and design practices during K-12, teacher education, and college-level engineering learning experiences, and increasing access to engineering in the elementary school experience, especially in under-resourced schools. In 2016 she was a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

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Melissa R. Mazan Tufts University

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Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Clinical Sciences
Director, Tufts Equine Respiratory Health Laboratory

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In this work-in-progress study, we investigate the range of reasoning used by five different members of a mechanical engineering capstone design team as they partnered with a veterinarian to design a device for horse lung functioning assessment. Technology for veterinary medicine can be a rich and engaging context for undergraduate design projects. Veterinary technologies offer an appropriate level of complexity and provide a new viewpoint on science concepts that are part of the mechanical engineering canon. Moreover, because veterinarians have both very real technological needs and deep STEM knowledge to help mentor students, they can be ideal capstone design clients.

This study looks specifically at one fourth-year undergraduate engineering team whose capstone design client was a professor of veterinary medicine. The team and veterinarian collaborated to develop and test a working prototype of a portable device to measure horse lung functioning. The central question for this study is: How does the crossover of veterinary medicine and mechanical engineering influence the learning and identity development of fourth-year mechanical engineering students? Taking a qualitative case study approach, we conducted retrospective interviews with the five students three months after their capstone experience had concluded. The goal of the interviews was to explore the influence of the veterinary medicine design context on their understandings of mechanical engineering concepts and their identities as engineers. Drawing from grounded theory methods, we find three major categories of student outcomes from the capstone project: conceptual understanding, practical knowledge, and identity as an engineer. This preliminary analysis shows that the crossover of veterinary medicine and mechanical engineering can be a productive context for capstone projects because they provide an appropriate level of complexity. In this study, we found this project complexity to afford both knowledge development and improved identification with the mechanical engineering profession.

Stuopis, I., & Wendell, K. B., & Mazan, M. R. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Veterinary Medicine as a Context for Student Reasoning in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35702

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