A well formed senior design project is known to have significant benefits in terms of project outcome, student motivation, team cohesiveness, engagement, and student learning. Defining a good problem statement, forming a team of compatible and appropriately skilled students, and selecting an appropriate faculty mentor are critical aspects of project formation. Therefore, students in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University are encouraged to suggest project ideas, form teams, and have them approved by the course coordinator before the semester starts. While there is significant literature on senior design projects, most of the existing work is focused on activities after the problem is defined and the teams are formed. There is a lack of mechanisms and tools to guide the project formation phase in senior design projects, which makes it challenging for students and faculty to collaboratively develop and refine project ideas and to establish appropriate teams. To address this challenge, we have implemented an online collaboration tool to share, discuss and obtain feedback on project ideas, and to facilitate collaboration among students and faculty prior to the start of the semester. Through an online survey and questionnaire to students, we are exploring the impact of the collaboration tool on the senior design project formation process. In this paper we present the design of the tool and the results from our ongoing study in the senior design class at Purdue Mechanical Engineering.

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