The Driving Force Behind Student Innovation in Capstone Design Projects: Insights into the Human Connection

Michele V. Manuel
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611

Gregory B. Olson
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Northwestern University Evanston, IL 60208

Ann F. McKenna
Department of Engineering
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85069

Educating and guiding undergraduate engineering design teams that perform at a high technical level in innovative design projects can be accomplished by using a hierarchical coaching model. The coaching model discussed in this paper incorporates the use of graduate students as coaches to mentor successful design teams. This paper discusses the results of a study performed on undergraduate engineering design teams and their graduate student coaches during two consecutive years of a capstone design course. The result of this study reveals two underlying themes that can be attributed to the successful execution of this model. One theme is the development of human connections between the coach and undergraduate design team. Another theme that arose was the need for mentorship of the graduate student coach. Both themes enable the design team and coaches to become involved in the design project for reasons beyond that of just understanding the fundamental concepts of engineering and solving complex problems.


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