How We Teach: Capstone Design

Laura P. Ford, Jennifer Cole, Kevin D. Dahm, Bruce K. Vaughen, Marnie V. Jamieson, Lucas James Landherr, David L. Silverstein, Troy J. Vogel, Christy Wheeler West, Stephen W. Thiel

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Capstone design was the topic of the 2022 survey by AIChE's Education Division's Curriculum Survey Committee. This paper reports on the results from fifty-eight responses from institutions in the United States. Institutions are more likely to have a two- or three-course capstone design series than a single capstone course (68% to 27%) with a mean of 5.4 credit hours. Some institutions (20%) have design courses throughout the curriculum in addition to the capstone design sequence, but more programs (40%) have design projects within non-design courses throughout the curriculum. The course or courses in the capstone design sequence are primarily offered only once a year (78%) with a slight edge to the spring semester/winter quarter (80%) over the fall semester/quarter (72%). Most institutions (78%) include instruction in software or programming as part of the course(s). The culminating design project is most often a theoretical design (68%) as opposed to one based on experiments (3%) or resulting in a prototype (7%), and most institutions do not use the AIChE Design Competition problems (70%). Professional skills are mainly lightly covered with the exception of professional communication being covered in depth at 58% of institutions. At most institutions, capstone design is used to assess the extent of ABET outcome achievement for all seven outcomes except #6 (develop and conduct appropriate experimentation…). Students typically complete only one culminating major design project (67%) in a team of 4.0 (mean) students. The mean of unique projects completed by the cohort is 8.6, but the mode is one project for the entire cohort (28% of institutions). Students receive formal feedback on their progress weekly at 50% of the institutions and every other week at 23% of institutions. The mode for weekly student time spent on projects is 6-10 hours per week (62% of institutions). The mean size of a faculty team teaching capstone design is 2.8 faculty. Fifty-eight percent of the instructors have at least three years of industrial experience, and instructors are split nearly evenly between teaching-track and tenure-track. At least one capstone design instructor is a licensed professional engineer at 43% of the responding institutions. The faculty collaborate with industry at 65% of responding institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 25 2023
Event2023 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - The Harbor of Engineering: Education for 130 Years, ASEE 2023 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2023Jun 28 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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