Improving Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Projects With Cooperative Learning In The Medi Fridge Project
2007 Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
As research at many institutions becomes more and more interdisciplinary, there is a desire to incorporate such themes into the undergraduate curriculum, specifically by offering interdisciplinary capstone design experiences to senior-level students. At Rice University, faculty responsible for capstone design have found it increasingly challenging to make such experiences beneficial to students, since much knowledge needs to be gained at the intersections of the disciplines. This must usually
... This must usually occur throughout the design process and is specific to a given project. The result has historically been "division of labor", where students more comfortable with given aspects of a project take ownership of those portions, while the other students are typically unwilling to acquire the "new" knowledge related to the project. In an attempt to reverse this trend and have more beneficial interdisciplinary design experiences for our students, our mechanical engineering and materials science program has adopted principles of cooperative learning to improve team performance, increase knowledge acquired, and promote truly interactive experiences in the capstone design course. This paper will highlight the revisions to the course and will use one project (the Medi-Fridge) as a case study for the effectiveness of these implementations. As an example project for these course revisions, this year a group of senior engineering students (three mechanical engineering and two electrical engineering students) worked on a method to keep medication cool for extended periods of time. This capstone team has developed designs which will provide a solution applicable in many instances and locals. More and more medicines are being developed that allow patients with serious diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, aids, etc. to live longer and in many cases fuller lives. A common thread among these medicines is that most of them must be kept cool until they are used. The refrigeration requirement can be a serious problem in third world countries and serious inconvenience in the United States or other developed country for people that need/want to travel for some period of time. This project has all the capstone design requirements, but also has the strong motivation of helping people that suffer from life threatening and debilitating diseases.