A Model Curriculum for a Capstone Course in Multidisciplinary Engineering Design

  • Miller R
  • Olds B
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Abstract

This paper describes our efforts to develop a curricular and pedagogical model for teaching multidisciplinary design to sen ior-level undergraduate engineering students. In our model, we address concerns of industry and engineering educators about the often narrow technical confines within which engineering design is currently taught. Our two-semester design sequence employs multidisciplinary teams of students working with faculty managers for industrial clients to solve complex, open-ended problems possessing numerous technical and non-technical constraints. After a two year pilot phase, the multidisciplinary senior design (MSD) course sequence is now offered to qualified Colorado School of Mines seniors each academic year and fully meets the senior capstone design requirement in each of the participating academic departments. An on-going formative and summative evaluation process allows us to monitor the perceptions and knowledge levels of our students compared with students completing traditional discipline-specific design courses. Our students, faculty, and clients overwhelmingly agree that multidisciplinary design teams tend to produce better engineering designs because of the broader range of expertise available to the team. MSD students strongly agree that higher order thinking skills such as open-ended problem-solving abilities, engineering analysis, and engineering synthesis are important aspects of the design process. Students also rate the course highly and indicate satisfaction with the course structure and curriculum. In addition, project clients are pleased with the quality of the final designs they receive from our students. Our experience has led us to conclude that undergraduate engineering students can thrive in a carefully designed multidisciplinary environment.

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Authors

  • Ronald L. Miller

  • Barbara M. Olds

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