Senior project and/or capstone design courses are intended to provide a culminating design experience for students and to demonstrate their understanding of engineering knowledge and their ability to apply that knowledge to practical problems. It is expected that the quality and attributes of students’ senior design projects can be used as a good measure of determining how well the curriculum prepares students to engage in engineering design as well as a measure of faculty teaching and student learning. This paper reports the results of a study designed to assess whether the new computer engineering curriculum implemented at Cal Poly over the previous five years has had a positive impact in preparing students for engineering design through measuring the quality and complexity of senior design projects. A randomized complete block design was used in the study. Ten senior projects each were randomly selected from the population of three groups: computer engineering senior projects completed in the 2002-2003 academic year, computer engineering senior projects completed in the 2007-2008 academic year, and electrical engineering senor projects completed in the 2007-2008 academic year. A senior project evaluation rubric was developed to assess the quality and complexity of the senior projects. Members from the Computer Engineering Industrial Advisory Board used the rubric to score the randomly selected senior projects. The scores assigned by the advisory board members were compared to the letter grades assigned by faculty advisors for these senior projects. The results of the analysis show that the overall quality of computer engineering senior projects improved from academic year 2002-2003 to academic year 2007-2008. However, there is a statistically significant difference in the overall senior project grades assigned between faculty advisors as compared to senior project scores assigned by the advisory board members. The results also indicate that the rubric developed from this study is robust since different evaluators did not have a statistically significant effect on the grading of senior projects.
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