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Conference Proceeding

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The Montana MULE: A Case Study in Interdisciplinary Capstone Design In May of 2010, NASA held the 1st annual Lunabotics Mining Competition at theKennedy Space Center in Florida. In this competition, 22 teams from across the nationbuilt remote-controlled, robotic excavators to mine lunar regolith simulant. The winnerof the competition was the team who could successfully deposit the most regolith into acollector in 15 minutes. The goal of this competition was to encourage multidisciplinarycapstone design projects. Of the 22 teams that participated in the competition, the“Montana MULE” from Montana State University (MSU) was the only robot tosuccessfully mine the qualifying weight of 10kg and ultimately deposited 22.6kg to takefirst place at the competition. The interdisciplinary capstone team that was assembled atMSU consisted of 8 students and 5 faculty advisors from 4 different departments andrepresented the largest multidisciplinary project ever attempted in the College ofEngineering. This paper will present an overview of the multidisciplinary capstoneproject and detail the challenges of administering such a large capstone team. Theseinclude coordination of schedules, deliverables, and student supervision. The assessmentstrategy will also be presented and the challenges will be discussed. Student surveyresults are presented between students participating in this interdisciplinary project versusstudents working on traditional, discipline specific projects in order to gauge the potentialimpact of offering this type of experience. Recommendations and lessons-learned willalso be presented in order to assist faculty at other institutions in implementing similarmultidisciplinary projects.


© 2011 American Society for Engineering Education.

Paper presented at ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings, 2011, 118th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Vancouver, BC, June 26-29, 2011.