Abstract

Student capstone teams have varying degrees of success in meeting the expectations of their project sponsors. Keeping sponsors happy is important to these programs in order to ensure continued support from these industry representatives, so finding ways to improve project outcomes is critical. In order to find blind spots that students may have been left with after their first 6–7 weeks of instruction, we conducted structured interviews with students in capstone programs at Brigham Young University and the US Air Force Academy. These interviews were then transcribed, coded, and analyzed for themes that may have been well understood or misunderstood by students. We found that a significant number of students had not understood concepts such as a design being more than a prototype, that sponsors have expectations for the tradeoffs between product cost and performance, or that they need to be thinking about how their designs might be deployed. It was also interesting to note that most students also reported feeling confident in their understanding despite their apparent lack thereof, indicating that these could represent major blind spots for students. We propose that developing methods for teaching these principles early on will help students see more clearly what their end goals need to be, and thus help them be more successful in delivering desirable designs.

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