IEEE Brings Standards Education to the Capstone Design Conference

| Jennifer McClain, David Law

capstone design conferenceThe 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.

The IEEE Standards Education Committee (SEC) sponsored panel sessions at the last two Capstone Conferences in 2012 at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, in 2014. The upcoming conference on 6-8 June 2016, is once again at The Ohio State University, and this time IEEE will run a very unique workshop for attendees.

On Monday, 6 June 2016, IEEE is offering a Workshop on Technical Standards and Consensus Building. Representatives of the IEEE SEC will facilitate an interactive consensus-building exercise in which attendees take on the roles of different members of a standards working group tasked with developing a new technical standard. The workshop aims to demystify how standards are developed and used, and will provide ideas on how capstone instructors can bring industrial standards that students are likely to encounter in the workplace into classroom and design experiences.

These workshops have been run seven times over the past few years with mostly university undergraduate and graduate students in attendance. This will be the first time the workshop is tailored specifically for educators who may want to use the exercise to teach about standards as part of their coursework.

Workshop 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.

Workshop 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

At the end of this interactive workshop, participants will have acquired a fuller understanding of how standards are developed, and specific ideas for how to incorporate new standards education tools into capstone coursework. According to Susan Tatiner of the IEEE Standards Association, “It is exciting for us to enable educators, as well as students, to gain a better understanding of how valuable standards are to industry. Standards are incredible teaching tools, and the more students know about them the better prepared they will be when starting out in their careers. Industrial standards serve as catalysts for technological innovation and global market competition, which are important themes we also see in capstone projects.”

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.