Designing Capstone Experiences for Interdisciplinarity in Biomedical Engineering Education

Holly M. Golecki, Jennifer R. Amos, Joe Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Teamwork is a mainstay of today's workplace environment. This is especially true in healthcare and engineering fields, where work is so interdependent that teams are a dominant means to facilitating progress. Design and capstone courses are one of the places where biomedical engineering students develop skills needed for success in a team-based workplace. Our department participates in several levels of design across different programs. This includes Capstone in the Bachelors (BS) program, Professional Capstone in the Master of Engineering (MEng) program, and the Capstone Projects course in the College of Medicine. Having multiple disconnected levels of design presents numerous challenges, such as sourcing projects, structuring the scope of projects, and sharing resources both physical and personnel related. As a result, we elected to develop a shared resource model for projects across these programs to meet the needs of each program and to enhance the learning experience and professional preparation for students. In this new model, medical students develop projects based on needs identified during clinical rotations. Medical students then serve as clients for an engineering student team. Engineering teams are composed of MEng student project managers and BS student engineers, working on the project over the course of their capstone classes. Yet, the design and implementation of an interdisciplinary curriculum can be a challenge for instructors and students alike. These challenges may be due to differences in epistemological views, constraints of the higher education system, or a lack of frameworks that support interdisciplinary approaches. In this paper, we will share a framework for a design continuum of biomedically focused projects to provide students within our programs with a design experience relevant to appropriate academic, clinical, and industry roles and functions while optimizing department resources. To develop the collaboration, we applied an evidence-based scientific approach to conduct a human-centered design study integrated with insights from the literature to develop a more general understanding of the nature, form, and opportunities of cross-boundary coordination across multiple programs and multiple types of projects. Through multiple stakeholder analyses, we created an updated design experience where medical school students, masters, and bachelors' students worked together toward a common project goal. This paper summarizes the results from a one-year pilot of the collaboration. The framework includes defined competencies and deliverables for each program along the spectrum of engineering design. Additionally, quantitative and qualitative surveys along with the assessment of artifacts from the collaborative projects were used to assess the success of the framework. The strategies discussed in this paper may provide insight into the ways that collaboration among co-instructors can support the creation of learning experiences that overcome the challenges of isolated disciplinary experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 25 2023
Event2023 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - The Harbor of Engineering: Education for 130 Years, ASEE 2023 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2023Jun 28 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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