Procedia Computer Science
Capstone engineering design projects are ideal for broad application of engineering concepts on open-ended research and design problems. These projects allow students to reinforce their skills and extend their expertise into specialized areas of interest. Often, the capstone projects serve as both test grounds and launch pads for students’ engineering careers. Within the engineering curriculum, these projects typically span the final year of an engineering program and entail a single project within a single disciplinary area. While their significance to the educational experience is unequivocal, the benefits of a capstone project can be expanded to further reflect real-world experiences. Over the span of their careers, professional engineers work on a number of projects and assume a variety of roles within a team of engineers with a range of expertise. How do we model that experience for our students within engineering education? Rowan University’s Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering adopted the Engineering Clinic Model (ECM) to replace capstone projects. With ECM students choose to work across traditional disciplinary boundaries on multiple projects over their junior and senior years. The Junior and Senior Engineering Clinics allow students to work on potentially four distinct projects with both juniors and seniors from any engineering discipline supervised by a faculty. The student teams focus on tangible objectives and present their outcomes for each term before moving to another team. The ECM has demonstrated tremendous resilience against enrollment growth and continues to be the most notable aspect of Rowan Engineering. Its resilience can be attributed to an automated process that prioritizes student preferences and faculty interests. The process begins with faculty from every engineering discipline pitching their projects at the start of the term. Students subsequently rank their preferences for those projects. A custom-developed Clinic Match algorithm assigns students to their projects based on a set criteria. The greatest benefit of this approach has been for the students to build desired competencies in a wide range of fields, regardless of the discipline. For the Spring 2019 semester, over 150 distinct projects, representing 5 engineering disciplines, were pitched to over 500 junior and senior engineering students. Students worked in teams typically ranging from 3-8 members on projects; often funded by the government and industry. This paper highlights the key features of engineering clinics within junior and senior years and supports the outcomes with quantitative trends gathered over the past 10 semesters. The Junior and Senior Engineering Clinics offer a powerful alternative for leveraging the capstone design project to impart a broad skill set among engineering graduates.
S. Bakrania, R. Jha. Upgrading the Capstone Projects: The Engineering Clinic Model. Procedia Computer Science, 2020, Vol. 172, pp. 344-349.
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