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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Prudence & Integrity in Team Composition

Rafael Guerrero

The formation and composition of your senior design team is as important, if not more important, than the project you will be working on. The senior design process is an intensive collaborative engineering experience that not only tests the knowledge and tools that you’ve gained in your undergraduate career, but also challenges your ability to work effectively and respectfully within an engineering team.

A team is the fundamental unit in any engineering problem-solving endeavor. Like any problem one would encounter in the real world, a solution comes from an individual or group of individuals that can apply the right set of skills to the tasks at hand. It is therefore possible to think of your senior design team as the collective set of strengths and capabilities of each individual that will be working with you. The senior design project requires you not only to be aware of what competencies you bring to the table, but also to understand what limits to your skill set can be complemented by the skill set of another engineer. Even though a majority of design teams may not be interdisciplinary, it is still apparent that you will have entirely different areas of comfortability and proficiency in your studies, even among colleagues of your own engineering discipline.

Prudence is present in forming a design team with the right set of skills for a specific engineering design challenge. Whether you are looking for other design team members or are concerned about what skills you bring to your design project, taking steps to define what your capabilities and areas of improvement are is a helpful step in forming a strong design team.

To better understand your engineering skill set:

  • What kind of problems do you like to solve, or feel like you are proficient at solving? What skills do you use to solve these problems?
    • Examples include: debugging in a programming language, Finite Element Analysis, technical writing/report writing, presentation skills, soils analysis and testing, logic circuit design.
  • What problems do you have difficulty solving, or prefer not being the one to solve? What skills do you think you lack, or need improvement on in order to solve these problems?
  • When you are in the process of problem solving, what resources do you use? How do you go about getting access to these resources? (e.g., using an arduino reference page, watching Solidworks tutorials on YouTube, going through notes or a textbook for an old course, going to office hours).
  • What skills, design techniques, or engineering perspectives are native to your engineering discipline? What aspects of your design challenge are best addressed by these skills/techniques/perspectives? (e.g., filter optimization for a robotic system, controls system design for an autonomous marine vehicle, thermofluids analysis for a frugal crop irrigation system, tissue behavior and mechanics for exoskeleton suits, source code for an integrated smart garage).
Jun 29, 2018