About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2600-2607
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-617-5895-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2016.1564

Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain

EXTERNALLY SPONSORED CAPSTONE PROJECTS AS A MEANS OF BETTER PREPARING ENGINEERING STUDENTS FOR THE PROFESSION

P. Gorder, R. Block

University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UNITED STATES)
Engineering Education in the United States has evolved over the years. While there still tends to be some hands-on activity interspersed throughout the curriculum, the breadth and depth of engineering science and mathematics, coupled with the societal pressures to the credit hours required for graduation, both as a means of lessening the financial burden of education and decreasing the time requirement, has forced most engineering programs to concentrate on more efficient means of disseminating the necessary information and instilling the necessary skills. As a result, many graduating engineers are quite adept at solving problems that fit nicely into the areas in which they were directly prepared, but flounder when faced with something unfamiliar. Solving problems is the essence of engineering, and the reality is that most problems encountered don’t fit nicely into the engineering discipline-specific “boxes” that we tend to define for the purposes of encapsulating the content of an undergraduate engineering students course of study.

Another deficiency for many students is their development of the “soft skills” necessary to succeed professionally, including both written and verbal communication, team skills, planning and project management, etc. These are the critical skills necessary to put their engineering knowledge to work productively, and while not ignored by engineering curricula per se, the development of those skills tends to be more effective through experience rather than classroom work or traditional assignments, the bread and butter of undergraduate assessment.

The Senior Design Program in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department endeavors to provide an opportunity for students to begin their transition from engineering student to practicing engineer. As with many similar engineering capstone programs, this is accomplished by bringing in external project sponsors with real problems for their organizations that the students, functioning on small teams, address over the span of a full academic year. Most of the project sponsors are for-profit companies, with many of those being engineering companies of some sort. This has proven to be a particularly effective model over the past 16 years since its inception, and has proven very scalable as the program has grown over the years.

This paper will detail the benefits to the students, both in terms of affording them an opportunity to develop their “soft skills” in a real world environment, but also to drive home the understanding that while real problems don’t typically fit into the nice neat boxes they’ve seen as undergraduate students, what they really have learned through their studies is how to approach a real problem, identify the underlying knowledge that they lack, and learn what they need to apply their craft as an engineer. Specific examples and lessons learned will be laid out, along with some strategies for replicating this type of program elsewhere.
@InProceedings{GORDER2016EXT,
author = {Gorder, P. and Block, R.},
title = {EXTERNALLY SPONSORED CAPSTONE PROJECTS AS A MEANS OF BETTER PREPARING ENGINEERING STUDENTS FOR THE PROFESSION},
series = {9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2016 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-617-5895-1},
issn = {2340-1095},
doi = {10.21125/iceri.2016.1564},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2016.1564},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {14-16 November, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {2600-2607}}
TY - CONF
AU - P. Gorder AU - R. Block
TI - EXTERNALLY SPONSORED CAPSTONE PROJECTS AS A MEANS OF BETTER PREPARING ENGINEERING STUDENTS FOR THE PROFESSION
SN - 978-84-617-5895-1/2340-1095
DO - 10.21125/iceri.2016.1564
PY - 2016
Y1 - 14-16 November, 2016
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2016 Proceedings
SP - 2600
EP - 2607
ER -
P. Gorder, R. Block (2016) EXTERNALLY SPONSORED CAPSTONE PROJECTS AS A MEANS OF BETTER PREPARING ENGINEERING STUDENTS FOR THE PROFESSION, ICERI2016 Proceedings, pp. 2600-2607.
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