Many engineering programs incorporate project-based, service learning into traditional classes and capstone experience. These projects focus on service-related challenges that impact the local, national, or international community and could be described as “humanitarian” or “for the greater good”. While these projects have shown positive benefits for recruitment, retention, and student diversity, what has been unexamined is whether student motivations in these projects differ from their peers in more traditional capstone projects. We hypothesize that students in service-oriented capstone projects may feel greater motivation and engagement with their project due to its service components as compared to their peers in other capstone projects.
We address this question by examining the experiences of capstone students at two different institutions. York College of Pennsylvania and Valparaiso University are both small, comprehensive, private universities with engineering programs that engage in a variety of capstone projects. At each institution we administered surveys with capstone students to assess their interests, motivations, and engagement in their capstone projects. By comparing student responses and evaluating the level of service that each project embodies, we can assess whether students in differing projects show different motivations. Our results provide insights into methods for maintaining student success in capstone projects and for selecting future projects.