Engineering is design. In the last 20-25 years, senior level capstone design courses have become highly visible at most engineering universities. They serve a key role in teaching students about design, recruiting new engineers, and maintaining accreditation. They represent an opportunity for the students to transition from coursework to successfully executing a practical design project. This transition is quite useful for graduating students who will be entering the workforce.
However, the senior level capstone experience leaves many educational opportunities unaddressed or undeveloped. Learning to do good design work is a skill set that is best developed experientially, on timelines typically longer than available for capstone experiences. As a result, students often lack the time to test or iterate on their design. Because the capstone experience is at the end of the undergraduate education, students taking courses do not connect their coursework to design as they are learning the material. Additionally, at some universities, capstone projects are department specific and projects do not build on an understanding of the inter-relationship of different disciplines.
In this paper the authors discuss their experience and lessons learned from creating a multi-year integrated system design (ISD) project. The experience seeks to mediate the above concerns by being multi-disciplinary and engaging all levels of students including freshman through senior levels. Topics covered include objectives, administration challenges, project selection, management and execution, as well as survey data from student participants.
This paper is designed to fit under the Academic Practice/Design Interventions category.
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