the Technology Interface / Fall 1998

Senior Design by Web


James P. Bartlett, Ph. D., P. E.
Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering
North Dakota State University, Fargo ND 58105-5630


Twenty engineering technology senior design students effectively used web presentations to collaboratively conceptualize and specify the manufacturing systems of an Aero Manufacturing Learning factory. This paper presents how student web presentations enhanced this senior design experience. Key benefits included project management awareness, individual and team motivation, immediate and peer feedback, practiced concurrent engineering, living individual and team documentation for assessment, formal presentation practice, and group technical writing practice. The class completed two papers, two proposals, one business plan, and one poster.



A senior design course was planned to support faculty interests, minimize faculty effort, and give students experience in manufacturing engineering while integrating previous coursework. An additional goal was to increase the percentage of students completing all course requirements.

Through six years experience with the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Aero Manufacturing Engineering Technology (AMET) program, it was noticed that the manufacturing base in the Red River Valley region was inadequate to demonstrate advanced and aircraft manufacturing engineering or supply significant related research. In 1994, as an effort to overcome this distance-to-action gap, the manufacturing of aircraft parts and fixtures began in the NDSU manufacturing laboratories. This effort was termed the NDSU Aero Manufacturing Learning Factory (AMLF) effort and is a profitable production facility synergistically linked to education and research programs.

This senior design project sprang from requests for a proposal and a business plan to formalize the AMLF. This was accomplished by dividing 20 senior design students into six teams with two levels of assignment as shown in Figure 1. Level one assignments resulted in a specific AMLF configuration. Level two assignments were based on the completion of level one as the next level of detail.

Figure 1. Course Flow Chart Listing Team and Individual Assignments.

Within each level, students chose the team and topic of interest within a four person per team maximum. To accomplish the conceptualization and specification of the AMLF required a high degree of concurrence and communication between the respective teams. Individuals, teams, project leaders, and faculty used weekly web page presentations for this reason. Additionally, a class listserv was used and each student web page was linked to the team web pages and included student email addresses. This encouraged student peers, project leaders, and faculty to provide feedback to each other throughout the semester.

The first two weeks of the semester were dedicated to web page training. Then, once each week individuals presented their accomplishments via the web using a projection system. The level I assignments for each team are presented in Table 1 to demonstrate the concurrent communications needed in this project.

Table 1. Level I Tasks for Conceptualizing and Specifying the AMLF Configuration.

Team Tasks for Level I
Project Management A project management team was formed with the semester goal of leading each team to the successful accomplishment of their respective goals. The project management students enrolled in a separate project management class, used Microsoft Project and posted web pages to track individual and class progress.
Value of a Manufacturing Engineer The semester goal for this team was to write a paper illustrating the contribution of the manufacturing engineer in a lively, interesting, and colorful manner. The result was a sales tool for presenting the value of a manufacturing engineer to those who don't know. The specific audience focus was chief executive officers of manufacturing companies without manufacturing engineers. This team was given industry contacts that requested their final report.

Using web presentations, this team taught the class "the value of a manufacturing engineer" throughout the semester. In the web presentations, the team was required to use clear graphics and examples from industry and multiple references [1,2]. Feedback from both the class and faculty was provided immediately following each weekly web presentation. The web presentations were subsequently assembled into the final paper. The completed paper also served as a basis for mapping manufacturing engineering and technology curriculum components to the AMLF.

This team also presented a review of technical writing principles and the Chicago writing style to the class using the web.

Manufacturing Learning Factory World Survey Based on the literature, this team wrote a paper that presented a survey of Manufacturing Learning Factories (MLF). An outline of the paper was provided by the faculty towards a comprehensive review of manufacturing learning factories to encourage and guide the development of new manufacturing learning factories based on successful examples. Three hypotheses to be evaluated by the literature were as follows. A MLF enables (a) the filling of competency gaps identified by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) [2], (b) a better manufacturing education through tutorial methods, real-world and hands-on experiences, and (c) can be accomplished in harmony with classroom or distance learning to increase academically engaged time and promote entrepreneurial minded students.

Specific data to be collected from the literature included the total number of manufacturing learning factories, category (e.g., profit, non-profit, government, high school, vocational, university), products produced, value added, and educational value. A world map with locations of the MLFs was also created.

Business Plan Based on the web presentations from the above teams, this team conceptualized the formal NDSU AMLF configuration and wrote the respective business plan for its initiation. Three phases of development were specified. Phase one involved only University resources. Phases two and three were based on the following SME and NSF grant proposals, respectively.
SME Proposal Concurrently with the development of the business plan, this group was responsible to understand the SME Foundation Manufacturing Education Plan Grants Program and write an appropriate proposal for phase two of AMLF development. This required integrating all team efforts and specifying complementary equipment and support.

This team was also responsible for presenting proposal writing hints to the class. Drafts of this proposal were reviewed by non-team peers and faculty with the final quality ready for submission to SME.

NSF Proposal This team was responsible for writing a National Science Foundation (NSF) Proposal to support the third phase of AMLF development (long term). They worked with NDSU Research Administration, determined the most appropriate NSF program, chose the most promising funding path, obtained the specific proposal format, and wrote the formal proposal.


The level II tasks were chosen by individuals and not required to be completed by team. This gave opportunity for individuals to choose a topic of interest and show their initiative apart from team assignments. Level II tasks are listed in the Fig. 1 course flow chart above.


Project Management

Two students managed the entire course with close faculty supervision. These students were enrolled in a project management class simultaneously and taught the class how to write, post, and present web pages. The project managers organized teams with team chosen leaders. Each team formulated and submitted weekly and monthly goals to the project managers. These goals were posted on the web using Microsoft Word and Microsoft Project. The project managers also served as the primary interface between faculty and student team leaders.

Each week the project managers presented project management topics to the class and directed the class web presentations with weekly updates of team and individual progress. The teams established weekly team meetings where faculty and project managers encouraged and supported the synergy of the six teams, as needed.

Besides managing the class, the project managers edited and published the final course document to faculty satisfaction. This required threading the level two documents into a cohesive AMLF system specification and harmonizing the entire document. For the AMET Industry Advisory Board meeting, the project managers organized and led the team leaders in a formal Microsoft PowerPoint presentation of the AMLF results and presented a poster.


Course Expectations

The course expectations were presented in the course syllabus and required scheduling nine hours per week for this course worth three credits. Each student was expected to attend and participate in the one to three hour weekly meeting by presenting using personal web pages linked to team and Faculty pages. Following these presentations, the entire class, staff, and faculty provided candid feedback, suggestions, and edits to be addressed in subsequent presentations by the individual. The weekly meetings were also used to provide team and individual guidance and time for inter-team coordination.

Both midterm progress and final course grades were given based on individual student contributions. The midterm grades were based on personal web page content, as compared to the required tasks and deadlines. The final course grades were based on the course document components assembled from the individual web pages. Every requirement and deadline was posted on the web and reviewed weekly.  


Project Results

The project results are distinguished from the academic results presented below. The weekly web page presentations evolved into one document (120 pages) specifying the configuration and systems of the AMLF at NDSU. This document covered the value of a manufacturing engineer, the manufacturing learning factory survey, the NDSU AMLF business plan, the SME proposal, and the NSF proposal [3]. Video taped oral student PowerPoint presentations, a poster, and a white paper were used by the class to solicit University and industry support.

The content of the course document included the foundation for two journal articles, a business plan, and two grant proposals to directly support faculty interests. These served to formalize the AMLF at NDSU. An industry proposal also resulted from the student oral presentations.


Academic Benefits of Student Web Pages in Senior Design

The student web pages benefited the senior design course objectives in seven distinct ways.

1. Project Management Awareness

The work completed was a real-world project accomplished in good timing. This was a result of good project management with clear assignments and deadlines established by the teams and tracked by the project management students. The student project managers shared responsibility in the course evaluations at mid-term and improved their project management skills as a result. The project managers were also evaluated individually by the entire class at the end of the course. Since students were organized into teams with team leaders and course project managers that taught the principles of project management through word and action, each student was trained in project management through this course experience. Awareness of individual, team, and class requirements was unavoidably clear through the use of web posted tasks and deadlines. Therefore, students with less self-starting ability could be successful. 

2. Individual and Team Motivation

Students were interested in web page technology and motivated to communicate their ideas and accomplishments using the creativity it afforded. Creativity was, thereby, encouraged through both the web documentation and the project content.

Weekly web-posted student accomplishments (with in-class presentation), prevented "hiding" in a group. Individual learning was documented on the web and personal motivation could be observed through the creativity and display of weekly results.

Meeting times were minimized because each student was aware of the class progress by reviewing the web pages prior to the weekly meeting. These web pages encouraged learning both in-class and out. When students reviewed peer web pages, they immediately applied the knowledge to synergistically further their own assignments.

3. Immediate and Peer Feedback

Faculty, teams, and individuals complimented, encouraged, and exhorted each other based on the web- posted accomplishments via in-class discussion, listserv, and email communications. These short feedback loops helped keep the conceptualization and design communications clear and efficient.

4. Practiced Concurrent Engineering

The web-posted accomplishments also kept the class concurrent as the AMLF evolved and documents were written. Here are three examples of this interaction. The value of the manufacturing engineer team provided curriculum content for the SME, NSF, and business plan teams to use as background. The SME and NSF teams used similar introductions but addressed intermediate and long-term funding needs, respectively. This required close collaboration to prevent duplication and ensure complementary funding requests. The MLF world survey team identified exemplar MLFs as a starting place for the business plan team to recommend a NDSU AMLF configuration.

Through this practice of concurrent engineering, duplication of effort was minimized. As an example, the NSF team located, presented, and linked web proposal writing references to their web pages. The information was then readily available to the SME team and the research not duplicated.

Even students not directly responsible for a topic became familiar with the procedures and results. For instance, the Value of a Manufacturing Engineer team learned how to write business plans and proposals from the web postings and presentations of the other teams. Similarly, where previous coursework was integrated throughout level one and level two topics, those students not directly involved in one topic benefited from the content of the web postings and presentations of the other teams and individuals.

5. Living Individual and Team Documentation for Assessment

Assessment of student accomplishments was as simple as comparing the required tasks with the student web pages posted. The content was available at any time and assessment was done at times other than the mid-term and finals to either encourage or redirect student efforts. Simply clicking on the student’s email address when viewing their weekly contribution enabled the assessment feedback. The individual contributions were linked to the team page, enabling the viewer to look at either the team accomplishments or the individual contributions.

6. Formal Presentation Practice

Through the weekly presentations, each student was trained in and practiced public speaking using presentation software (Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Project) and the web with projection. Candid feedback was provided to each presenter as needed by the class, student project managers, staff, and faculty.

7. Group Technical Writing

Teamwork was facilitated by thorough written documentation posted on the web such that students could view all completed work and add to it as convenient. This gave the students practice in professional written communication using the Chicago writing style to assemble individual and team web pages into one course document specifying the NDSU AMLF.



Student web page presentations served as the basis for the concurrent engineering of an Aero Manufacturing Learning Factory (AMLF) at North Dakota State University. Faculty, staff, students project managers, and students all communicated progress through weekly web and oral presentations. These web documents evolved synergistically into a single class document specifying the configuration and systems of the AMLF. The oral presentations were accompanied by immediate feedback from faculty, staff, student project managers, and peers.

The web afforded thorough and dynamic communication of course expectations, student progress, and assessment. As a result, all students completed the course requirements and provided valuable contributions. The benefits that were observed in this web based senior design project could be realized in any large group senior design project requiring a high degree of concurrence. 


1. Koenig, Daniel T., Manufacturing Engineering: Principles for Optimization, Second edition, Taylor & Francis, Washington DC, 1994.

2. Manufacturing Education for the 21st Century, Volume III, Preparing World Class Manufacturing Professionals, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 1996.

3. Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI), National Science Foundation, NSF 97-116.