Feasibility of Developing a Sustainable Multidisciplinary Senior Capstone Experience
Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering,
Today’s undergraduate engineering students will enter a workforce requiring a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving. Although both academic and industry professionals agree on the importance of providing students the opportunity to work on multidisciplinary teams, many institutions struggle to create these opportunities within their curriculum. This paper will examine the challenges of creating a multidisciplinary senior capstone course from the perspective of engineering faculty. Currently the senior capstone design course is a requirement for most engineering degree program. Most capstone courses are departmental and discipline-specific, but the integrative problem-solving required in such courses provide an opportunity to increase the multidisciplinary nature of the capstone experience. Team members from academic areas in engineering, design, agriculture, education, and business met to determine the challenges of developing a multidisciplinary senior capstone course. Because of the experience of College of Engineering faculty, they were given the opportunity to provide input to the team on potential obstacles to the development of a multidisciplinary capstone experience. A feasibility study, supported by funds from the College of Engineering, was conducted during the Summer of 2015 to assess the potential for developing and sustaining a multidisciplinary capstone experience. Seventeen faculty members representing 10 programs in the College of Engineering were interviewed to gather their insight on benefits and challenges of creating a multidisciplinary capstone design course. Participants included department chairs, program coordinators, members of the college accreditation task force, curriculum task force members and faculty who coordinate or teach engineering capstone courses. This paper presents the findings from this study. These findings and implications will include themes from the following areas: 1.) Obstacles and benefits of creating and offering a sustainable multidisciplinary capstone course, 2.) Considerations in the development of a multidisciplinary capstone course, and 3.) Challenges from past efforts on multidisciplinary projects. The paper will conclude with recommendations for working with faculty to create a more multidisciplinary learning environment for students and initial thoughts on the next steps in the development process.