Capstone Research to Grow SE Workforce Capacity

Principal Investigators: Dr. Beth McGrath, Stevens Institute of Technology (Task 19) (; Dr. Mark Ardis (; and Dr. Michael DeLorme (, Stevens Institute of Technology (Tasks 43, 105, and 131); Ms. Megan Clifford, Stevens Institute of Technology (Task 150)

Collaborator(s):  Many different collaborating universities over several years

Timeframe:  March 2010 to June 2012 (Task 19); July 2011 to October 2012 (Task 19A); September 2012 to August 2013 (Task 43); January 2014 to September 2014 (Task 105); April 2015, to October 2015 (Task 131); October 2015 to May 2017 (Task 150)



    • To understand the impact on student learning of and career interest in System Engineering through a set of diverse capstone courses that expose students to authentic DoD problems and engage them in learning and practice of System Engineering
    • To better understand how differing course designs, structures, materials, instructional practices, and other inputs, such as the involvement of DoD and industry mentors, impact student learning and career interest in System Engineering
    • To explore methods and approaches to augment the System Engineering workforce for future DoD and related industry workforce needs
    • To establish a marketplace for undergraduate capstone projects with an emphasis on multidisciplinary projects involving development of systems engineering competencies.
    • To implement lessons learned through research, analysis of completed and ongoing capstone marketplace projects and outreach to industry, government and academic stakeholders in the engineering community to develop the marketplace into a sustainable, scalable entity that can be transitioned out of the SERC to provide a long term benefit to students and stakeholders.


    • In early work, topic areas illustrating authentic DoD problems were presented for student teams’ projects. These areas were selected, in part, based on expertise of participating faculty and institutional resources, and on availability of DoD and local experts. Institutions organized their teams in different ways, and relied primarily on System Engineering faculty to lead or contribute to the course. Data was gathered to analyze the impact of the System Engineering Capstone project on student learning of System Engineering, interest in System Engineering careers, and awareness / interest in authentic DoD problems through surveys, case study analyses, and student blog posts. An analytic rubric was used to measure changes in the level of complexity of student thinking using System Engineering knowledge on one case study analysis.
    • The Capstone Marketplace was populated with sponsored DoD projects for the fall 2013-spring 2014 academic year. Six projects were successfully matched with undergraduate teams. Student teams and sponsor identified mentors/subject matter experts were connected as the initial step in each project. Information and guidelines were provided through the Capstone Marketplace to help the teams utilize system engineering tools and processes. First semester surveys were distributed to the students, sponsors/subject matter experts, and faculty. These were reviewed and used to address any mid-project issues as well as for the development of additional best practices and guidelines to be added as additional resources.
    • Outreach to Industry, professional societies, government and academia is ongoing with the goal of expanding the pool of Marketplace projects and academic teams as well as developing a plan for transitioning the Capstone Marketplace from the SERC to another entity.
    • The 2014-15 Capstone Marketplace is being populated. This will enable at minimum a doubling of the number of projects for the upcoming year. Several other potential sponsors have been contacted with the hope of 6-8 additional 2014-15 projects.

Application:  Potential to broadly impact how senior design projects are conducted across the US and more broadly



  • McGrath, E., Lowes, S., Squires, A., Jurado, C., “SE Capstone: A Pilot Study of 14 Universities to Explore SE Learning and Career Interest Through DoD Problems”, American Society of Engineering Educators Annual Conference and Exposition, June 26-29, 2011, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Ardis, M., Hole, E., Manfredonio, J., “Creating a Marketplace for Multidisciplinary Multi-University Systems Engineering Capstone Projects”, 2013 Conference on Systems Engineering Research, March 19-22, 2013, Atlanta, GA
  • Ardis, M., Carmen, C., DeLorme, M., Hole, E., “Using a Marketplace to Form Multidisciplinary Systems Engineering Capstone Project Teams”, American Society of Engineering Educators Annual Conference and Exposition, June 15-18, 2014, Indianapolis, IN
  • Several student projects developed as capstone projects were presented at different events.

Research Team

Current Research Team

  • Ms. Megan Clifford, Stevens Institute of Technology

Past Research Team Members:

  • Dr. Susan Lowes, Director Teachers College/Columbia University
  • Dr. Mark Ardis, Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Ms. Elisabeth McGrath, Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Mr. Christian Jurado, Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Sophie Lam, Institute for Learning Technologies
  • Mr. Michael DeLorme, Stevens Institute of Technology


Collaborating Institutions

Project Researchers