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Review Article

Structure and Management of an Engineering Senior Design Course

[+] Author and Article Information
Martin L. Tanaka

Department of Engineering and Technology,
Western Carolina University,
Cullowhee, NC 28723
e-mail: mtanaka@wcu.edu

Kenneth J. Fischer

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of Kansas,
Lawrence, KS 66045

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received November 2, 2015; final manuscript received May 1, 2016; published online June 7, 2016. Assoc. Editor: Kristen Billiar.

J Biomech Eng 138(7), 070802 (Jun 07, 2016) (6 pages) Paper No: BIO-15-1549; doi: 10.1115/1.4033583 History: Received November 02, 2015; Revised May 01, 2016

The design of products and processes is an important area in engineering. Students in engineering schools learn fundamental principles in their courses but often lack an opportunity to apply these methods to real-world problems until their senior year. This article describes important elements that should be incorporated into a senior capstone design course. It includes a description of the general principles used in engineering design and a discussion of why students often have difficulty with application and revert to trial and error methods. The structure of a properly designed capstone course is dissected and its individual components are evaluated. Major components include assessing resources, identifying projects, establishing teams, understanding requirements, developing conceptual designs, creating detailed designs, building prototypes, testing performance, and final presentations. In addition to the course design, team management and effective mentoring are critical to success. This article includes suggested guidelines and tips for effective design team leadership, attention to detail, investment of time, and managing project scope. Furthermore, the importance of understanding business culture, displaying professionalism, and considerations of different types of senior projects is discussed. Through a well-designed course and proper mentoring, students will learn to apply their engineering skills and gain basic business knowledge that will prepare them for entry-level positions in industry.

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Fig. 1

Engineering students testing a functional electrical stimulation bicycle

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Fig. 2

General structure of a senior design course

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Considerations for good team management and mentoring

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