1. Sponsors identify a technical challenge.
The process begins when a prospective sponsor approaches the Design Lab to explore collaboration opportunities. Each company identifies multiple potential projects and writes proposal abstracts that describe objectives, background, design constraints, and expected results. The Design Lab works closely with sponsor representatives in a thorough initial evaluation to gauge a project's suitability. The evaluation criteria are: importance of the project to the sponsor, range of disciplines required, technical complexity and challenge level, and availability of qualified students and faculty members to collaborate on the project.
2. We work out the details.
After promising projects are identified, Design Lab faculty and staff work with sponsors to refine the problem definition, identify the students and resources needed, and finalize the details. Projects are funded by a grant provided by the sponsor. Sponsors also assign project mentors to work directly with the students for the duration of the project.
The Design Lab begins assembling the team. Students submit an introductory memo and resume to express interest in a Design Lab project. After reviewing project requirements, the Design Lab matches students with projects.
3. The project launches.
Projects typically last one academic year and can start in either the Fall or Spring semester. We organize the project into 15-week modules (the length of one semester).
The student team explores background information, determines sponsor requirements, performs competitive benchmarks, and brainstorms alternative design solutions using Design Lab computer-aided engineering resources to conceptualize design solutions. As the concept is finalized, teams apply engineering analysis, iterate on design solutions, and ultimately shift emphasis toward implementation. Then they build and test prototype systems as needed.
Though the student teams are largely self-directed, taking ownership and using their initiative to drive solutions, they stay in close contact with their corporate mentors, who help them work through each project stage. Teams draw upon the technical resources within the sponsoring organization as appropriate. Most projects are completed within two semesters, or one academic year. Each semester culminates in a final oral presentation, a project demonstration, and a written technical report that is delivered to the sponsor. Teams are required to show proof of concept in the form of a physical model, working prototype, or testable artifact.
As a result of this process, students get a meaningful real-world experience that builds confidence. Sponsors gain an innovative and practical solution to a problem that is important to them. The Design Lab provides a win-win experience for all.
Ready to Move Forward?
Please visit Submitting Project Proposals for more information and to submit your ideas.