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Comparing Student and Sponsor Perceptions of Interdisciplinary Teams’ Capstone Performance

S. Krishnakumar, C. Berdanier, C. McComb, M. Parkinson, and J. Menold
2020, ASME 2020 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference

Capstone design programs are effective environments for students to collaborate with industry sponsors on authentic design problems. Actively working in interdisciplinary teams, capstone programs provide students with the opportunity to hone their technical and professional skills. Previous work has demonstrated that interdisciplinary teams outperform homogeneous teams on complex open-ended tasks, but struggle to communicate across disciplinary boundaries and report lower levels of team cohesion and satisfaction with final outcomes. The purpose of this work is to investigate the relationship between the disciplinary diversity of capstone design teams and perceptions of success and engineering design abilities. A mixed-methods study was conducted with 56 capstone design teams. Results indicate that team diversity may be inversely related to students’ beliefs in their abilities to construct a prototype. Preliminary qualitative analysis suggests that students tend to divide prototyping tasks based on disciplinary background and struggle to integrate design efforts for complex systems, particularly during later stage design.