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Capstone Design Sequence Uses Team Approach to Problem-Solving

Tuesday, December 05, 2017
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Rose-Hulman grads have a reputation for hitting the ground running. Seniors do just that in the Capstone Design sequence (ME 470, 471 & 472).

Teams of three to five students tackle client projects, from initial planning and design to prototype testing and final production. What the experience yields, says Associate Professor Jay McCormack, Ph.D., is “Project ownership—the ability to own your own work.” The self-directed team approach, he says, means “not having someone tell you what to do every moment—having to figure things out.”

The results include not just a portfolio piece for engineers seeking their first job, but solutions to clients’ real-world problems. Reach Services sought a durable, affordable “busy box” (sensory board) for children with cerebral palsy or other disabilities. The commercially available units cost hundreds of dollars each and tend to break easily. A Rose-Hulman team tackled the problem and developed a prototype which now is being refined into a version that it is easy to produce on campus.

According to McCormack, the sustained, small-group project yields experiences that complement students’ lecture classes. “The kinds of hands-on authenticity that we’re shooting for is not something you can do within a classroom,” he says. “It requires the involvement of interested, external clients.”