The engineering undergraduate curriculum presents substantial opportunities for improvement. Society is calling for a transformation (https://tuee.asee.org/). As the culminating experience for undergraduate engineering students, capstone design team projects represent a window on the curriculum and a particularly fertile ground for understanding these opportunities. However, the factors that influence success and failure in capstone remains an area of inquiry. The framework presented here proposes to help us develop a deeper understanding of these factors.
We present a mixed mode analysis approach for identifying the critical factors impacting capstone design team success, where success is defined by student satisfaction. The proposed framework includes factors and their interactions in three fundamental areas: faculty mentorship, student backgrounds, and various contextual influences.
The proposed framework capitalizes on the use of existing survey tools and course data to conduct a mapping of faculty mentor beliefs/practices against student perception and recognition of those practices. In conjunction with student reflective memos containing self-evaluations of their project and team experiences, interactions with faculty mentors, and overall satisfaction with their educational experience, this data will combine to provide a multifaceted assessment of which factors are influential and are value-added to the program. The mixed-mode approach will include quantitative statistical analysis of programmatic data, qualitative social network analysis-based assessment of peer evaluations, and case-study triangulation with student-authored reflective memorandum and faculty self-assessments.
Preliminary results from application of the proposed framework at a large public metropolitan research one university will be shared. The ultimate objective of this work is to provide a meaningful in-depth understanding of the capstone design experience and insights based upon careful analysis and observations of engineering students working on “real-world” projects. It is envisioned that the results of the research will provide meaningful guidance to students, instructors and stakeholders for improved preparation of young engineers for the profession.
Kurt Stresau is an Instructor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) in the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences (CECS) at the University of Central Florida (UCF). He currently serves as the primary Instructor and Coordinator for the MAE Senior Design (Capstone) Program. He has served in this capacity since 2015, prior to which he supported MAE as an Adjunct mentoring Capstone teams since 2012. Mr. Stresau has also taught a variety of Aerospace courses for the MAE Department. Prior to joining UCF, Mr. Stresau was a faculty member at Eastern Florida State College (2006-2012). Mr. Stresau began his industry career in mechanical design and manufacturing (1998), and joined United Space Alliance as an engineer on the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) for the Space Shuttle Program in 2000. In 2004, he transitioned to a senior engineering position in Engineering Integration and Project Management, working with mechanical, thermal, hydraulic, electrical, pyrotechnic, and propulsion subsystems. Mr. Stresau served in that capacity until the completion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. Mr. Stresau holds a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida, and a M.S. in Space Systems from the Florida Institute of Technology. Mr. Stresau is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Central Florida.
Mark Steiner is Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) at the University of Central Florida (UCF). He currently serves as Director of Engineering Design in the MAE Department. Mark previously served as Director of the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory in the School of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Professor of Practice in the Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering department from 1999 to 2015. He also worked at GE Corporate from 1987 to 1991, consulting and introducing world-class productivity practices throughout GE operations. In 1991 he joined GE Appliances and led product line structuring efforts resulting in $18 million annual cost savings to the refrigeration business. Later as a design team leader he led product development efforts and the initial 1995 market introduction of the Built-In Style line of GE Profile refrigerators. His last assignment at GE Appliances was in the Office of Chief Engineer in support of GE’s Design for Six Sigma initiative. Dr. Steiner has taught advanced design methods to hundreds of new and experienced engineers. His research interests include; design education, product architecture, mechanical reliability, design for manufacture and quality. Mark graduated from Rensselaer with a B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1978 and a Ph.D. in 1987.
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