Using Mini Design Competitions in Capstone Courses to Teach the Design Process
United States Air Force Academy Air Force Academy United States
Pagination or Media Count:
For many senior undergraduate engineering students, the capstone design project is their first experience implementing the design process. As a result many capstone teams do not grasp the importance of the early stages of the design process. To help students better understand how these early steps will impact the overall project capstone students were given the opportunity to participate in a mini design competition. These students took two weeks to produce classroom demos which were evaluated by instructors for their usefulness in teaching. In the current research, this set of students forms the experimental group. Other students were given and overview of the design in a classroom setting, but did not have the opportunity to implement the process outside of their main capstone experience. This set of students forms the control group. It was hypothesized that using the students time in the design competition would get students excited for their capstone project, help them be more comfortable using the lab equipment, and help them better understand the design process. A quiz was administered to assess students understanding of the design process, motivation, and lab equipment familiarity. The scores from the experimental and control groups were compared. Qualitative assessment by capstone mentors indicated that students exposed to the mini design exercise had a more holistic understanding of the design process. Additionally, quiz scores indicated a slightly more rapid increase in understanding. However, the design competition did not appear to affect familiarity with lab equipment and or student motivation. This paper reports on the details of the mini design competition, the specifics of the assessment instruments and the details of the qualitative and quantitative assessment results.