IEEE Brings Standards Education to the Capstone Design Conference…Updated Edition

| Jennifer McClain, David Law

As reported in the last issue of this eMagazine, the IEEE Standards Education Committee (SEC) sponsored a workshop at the Capstone Design Conference at The Ohio State University on 6 June 2016. The Capstone Design Conference, held every two years, offers a forum for faculty, administrators, industry representatives, and students to share ideas about improving design-based capstone courses. Capstone courses, also referred to as senior design courses, are for undergraduate engineering students in their last year of study.

JamesIrvineCapstoneConfThe Workshop on Technical Standards and Consensus Building had 20 enthusiastic attendees, all educators involved in teaching capstone design courses at their colleges and universities. The two-hour session involved an interactive consensus-building exercise in which attendees took on the roles of different members of a standards working group and were tasked with developing new technical standards. The workshop’s aim was to demystify how standards are developed and used, and provide ideas on how capstone instructors can bring standards that students are likely to encounter in the workplace into classroom and design experiences.

Jim Olshefsky, Director, External Relations, ASTM International, experienced the workshop for the first time as one of the facilitators. He noted, “the workshop provided a unique opportunity for teaching students about the standards development process.  Participants clearly recognized the powerful synergies and other expertise that can be attained through a consensus-building exercise focused on technical standards.”

A survey of the attendees was also conducted at the end of the workshop. One of the questions asked, “How helpful do you think a game based on this workshop would be as a teaching tool for undergraduate engineering students?” Seventeen attendees indicated that it would be helpful or very helpful, with two attendees saying it would be somewhat helpful. Additional comments included: “The game was enlightening to the deliberation process.” “The simulation was a good learning tool to understand the complex issues behind standards.” “It was fun.”

The Workshop’s Objectives:

  • To facilitate a better understanding of the importance of standards to industry and demonstrate the fundamentals of standards development.
  • To provide specific ideas for using standards and standards development in capstone courses.
  • To discuss new ways for meeting some key Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) criteria, including:
    • an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams;
    • an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility;
    • the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context;
    • a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in, life-long learning;
    • a knowledge of contemporary issues.
  • To provide information on new standards education tools.
  • To enable a fuller understanding of the economic, political, and technical realities of standards development.
  • To put participants into the role of a working group member and to enable a better appreciation and understanding of motivation and dynamics in that environment.

The Workshop’s Outcomes

At the end of the workshop, participants will:

  • Have a better understanding of the importance of standards to industry, and see industrial standards as catalysts for technological innovation and global market competition.
  • Have specific ideas for how to incorporate new standards education tools into capstone coursework.
  • Have a better understanding of how these tools can help meet certain ABET criteria.


  • James Irvine, Ph.D., Reader in the EEE Department at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, UK
  • Jennifer McClain, Senior Manager, IEEE Standards Education & Business Development
  • Susan Tatiner, Director, Standards Education Programs, IEEE Standards Association
  • James P. Olshefsky, Director, External Relations, ASTM International

How to request an IEEE Standards Education Workshop

This consensus-building workshop is one of a few different types of workshops offered through IEEE Standards University. The workshop has been run many times over the past few years with mostly university undergraduate and graduate students in attendance. This was the first time the content was tailored specifically for educators who may want to use the exercise to teach about standards as part of their coursework.

The IEEE Standards Education Committee encourages anyone wishing to bring education about standards into their classroom to please contact us at Workshops or speaking engagements can be arranged and tailored on a case-by-case basis.

Jennifer A. McClain

IEEE Standards Education & Business Development

Jennifer began her career at the IEEE in 1997 as Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science and IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. She spent eight years with the IEEE Standards Association editing standards, aiding working groups with the standards development process, and as the Managing Editor of the Standards Information Network, publishing handbooks and guides to help with the implementation and understanding of standards. Now with IEEE Educational Activities, she manages all functions related to the Standards Education Programs and Committee, and as part of the business development team develops opportunities for IEEE Educational Activities.

Jennifer holds a B.A. with History and English Majors from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, and attended the Masters of Education in Social Studies program at West Chester University, West Chester, PA, obtaining a Pennsylvania Secondary Education Teaching Certificate in Social Studies.