(566e) Freshmen As Employees on Senior Capstone Laboratory Projects | AIChE

(566e) Freshmen As Employees on Senior Capstone Laboratory Projects


Butterfield, A. E. - Presenter, University of Utah
Branch, K., University of Utah
Over the past four years we have established a mentor program between each student in our freshman design laboratory and our senior teams in their capstone laboratory. To aid our seniors, this project was meant to enhance their learning through teaching, which is a proven means to deepen student understanding. An additional aim was to give seniors experience hiring and managing â??employeesâ? to supplement their experience working on teams made up only of their cohorts, and give them insight into the perspectives of potential employers. For freshmen, the project was meant to give a clearer understanding of their academic trajectory though their interactions with their seniors, to build their engineering identity, and to give them experience in applying for an engineering position.

In our introductory chemical engineering course (fall semester of the freshman year) we instruct our freshmen on resume preparation and iteratively improve their resumes over the semester. In the spring semester of the freshmen year, they enter our design laboratory where they execute several design projects. Through the same period, seniors enter the last semester of our Senior Projects Laboratory series, in which they propose and execute novel projects. About a third of these projects are selected to progress and the list of green-lit senior projects, along with single-page descriptions, are given to the freshman class. The freshmen then select the projects they wish to work on and tailor their resumes for their most desired projects. Seniors then receive all the freshmen resumes and select their top candidates. Freshmen are placed onto teams in rounds, based on senior choices.

For three week, freshmen work with their seniors for a minimum of 8 hours. At the end of this period, freshmen author a report and evaluate the management skills of their senior team mentors. The seniors also evaluate the team working and productivity of their freshmen â??employeesâ?. Surveys are also used to gauge freshmen perception of the experience in general.

Over 300 freshmen and 200 seniors have participated in this program and the survey results have been greatly positive, but dependent on several important factors. Student experiences in this program depend greatly on freshmenâ??s ability to manage problems of scheduling, logistics, and conflict resolution, which many of them have not yet encountered in a professional environment. Furthermore, we found that seniors must be incentivized to create clear and meaningful expectations for their freshmen teams from the early proposal phases of their projects to ensure the partnership is fruitful for both groups. We describe several tools that have been introduced to address these problems and improve the freshmen-senior collaborative process over the years.