Coordinating opportunistic interdisciplinary projects across single-discipline capstone courses

Catherine D.D. Bowman, Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, Dean Bacalzo, Paul Howell, Eric J. Montgomery, Alfred Sanft, Dillon Briggs, Yitao Chen, Daniel McCarville, Ryan Meuth, Ming Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


There is increasing interest in developing interdisciplinary capstone courses in which students from different majors enroll to work together on complex, real-world projects. Creation of new interdisciplinary capstone courses may not be feasible for some departments or institutions, however, due to administrative or funding complexities. As an alternative, the inclusion of interdisciplinary projects engaging students enrolled in separate single-discipline capstone courses may offer the opportunity to undertake interesting projects, or engage with certain sponsors, that would not be possible without the contributions of students from diverse disciplines. Having such projects undertaken by interdisciplinary teams of students who remain in their single-discipline capstone courses does not reduce, and may amplify, the challenges found in fullfledged interdisciplinary capstone courses (e.g., misaligned schedules, differing requirements, and unfamiliar working cultures). This paper provides findings from the pilot year of a series of opportunistic interdisciplinary capstone projects associated with NASA's Psyche Asteroid Mission involving students from computer science, computer systems engineering, engineering management, industrial design, and graphic design. The findings highlight the importance of close communication and flexibility between faculty and identify a novel and potentially-replicable approach of including project management capstone students on interdisciplinary teams. The paper also describes changes that were implemented for the national expansion of the program with the 2018-2019 academic year and provides early lessons learned associated with those changes, outlining a plan for iterative improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1983-1992
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number6B
StatePublished - 2019


  • Disciplinary culture
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Program evaluation
  • STEM
  • Teamwork

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)


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