Any company, large or small, is encouraged to submit a clearly defined workplace problem to the CEDC. At the beginning of the fall term, ENGS 89 students select the problems they would like to solve. The CEDC then assigns the students to teams and matches the teams with the company sponsors.
Once a problem is selected, the company that submitted it becomes a CEDC associate. A technical liaison from the company (who has practical experience in the relevant field of engineering) works directly with the students. The financial liaison works with the CEDC staff to support the team with financial support of the course.
Benefits to Sponsors
When a company sponsors an ENGS 89/90 project, they get a team of enthusiastic students who have studied engineering topics beyond the core courses and who are motivated to solve problems by applying engineering principles. Over the course of the two ten-week terms and a seven-week interim period, this Thayer School team typically spends between 800 and 1,600 hours on its project, depending on project complexity and team size. The team consists of 3-6 students, at least one faculty advisor, and the course director; the team also has access to other faculty, support staff, and the many resources of Thayer School.
Your proposed project may be an opportunity for you to add resources to an existing engineering problem, a way for you to explore the next step of a current company project, or a way to assign resources to a task that has been postponed for lack of staffing. Your company may also use the opportunity to identify talent for recruiting purposes or initiate longer-term research collaborations with Thayer School faculty.
The Ideal Project
The ideal project involves the design of a product, process, or system with clearly defined deliverables. A good project:
- Calls for technical analysis, financial justification, prototyping/simulation, testing, and project planning
- Has a strong design component
- Has well defined and measurable objectives that can be met in the 26 weeks of the design course sequence
Companies new to the CEDC process should read through some sample project proposals, all of which have been submitted to the CEDC and successfully solved by student teams.
Each CEDC associate contributes $5,000 to Thayer School for their student selected project. See the Financial Commitment page for details.
Some projects provide significant results in the form of working prototypes or processes. Others projects create results that have begun to address an industry problem but may require more work by another group of students or by engineering staff within the sponsor's company to complete the work.
Results vary depending on the nature of the project itself, the capabilities of the students, and the clarity of communications between the team and the technical liaison. While Thayer School cannot predict the quality of any particular project, it can guarantee that students will give their best efforts to their projects.
Deliverables may be one or more of the following:
- Design analyses, reports, and feasibility studies
- Prototype hardware, e.g., product prototypes
- Engineering plans and drawings
- Computer programs, manuals, and data
- Manufacturing process plans
- Demonstrations, videos, and presentations
- Business plans and financial analyses
How to Propose a Student Project
The CEDC begins the annual process for selecting CEDC associates in the spring of each year. Once a corporation embraces the opportunity to sponsor student work, a point person should follow this step-by-step process:
- The initial contact person calls the CEDC at (603) 646-9197 or emails the Cook Center. The CEDC staff works with that person to determine the best way for the company to participate.
- The CEDC director assigns a username and password to new sponsors for a website where project proposals are collected; returning sponsors may retrieve their password information from the site. At this point, the initial contact person should designate a technical liaison and a financial liaison.
- Prior to the June 30 deadline, the technical liaison enters the problem description into the CEDC website.
- The CEDC staff works with the technical liaison to develop a strong problem description. The ideal problem is a technical project that involves a current workplace challenge and includes a list of potential project deliverables. The project should also be achievable over the appropriate time period.
- At the beginning of ENGS 89, in early September, students are temporarily assigned to each of the proposed projects and are responsible for learning more about the opportunities provided. This might include finding out the best methods and times for communication with the sponsor, determining the key skills needed to successfully complete the project, and working with the sponsor to make sure that project deliverables are adequate and well described. This assigned student team pitches the project to their peers during the second week of class. This process ensures that all potential projects are enthusiastically represented to our students during the project selection process.
- Students rank their top project choices and state any relevant experience they have had. Project teams are formed by the course director from this information. The CEDC staff notifies all company liaisons of final project team assignments. The financial liaisons for the selected projects will also receive an invoice for support at this time. Companies whose projects are not selected may, if they want, continue to work with the CEDC to find a student or group of students in another course who might be interested in their project descriptions.
ENGS 89/90 Timeline
- Early September: ENGS 89 begins, proposals are pitched, problems and teams are matched, and projects begin.
- Early October: CEDC associates are invoiced.
- Mid October: Student teams report orally to a professional review board about their understanding of the problem, the current state of the art surrounding potential solutions, and the area in which they intend to focus their efforts. A written report is also provided at this time.
- Late November: Each student team reports to the professional review board on its potential solution to the problem, their attempts to realize the solution, potential obstacles, alternative ideas in case a dead-end is reached, and anticipated timelines for completing the project. A written report is also provided at this time.
- Early January: ENGS 90, the final segment of the course, begins.
- Early February: Each student team reports to the professional review board about its progress to date, including the status of the proposed solution, and how challenges have been overcome.
- Early March: Each student team presents its final report to the professional review board, recapping their work over the two terms and demonstrating the deliverable that solves the problem. A written report is also provided at this time.
Tips for Technical Liaisons
The CEDC associate's technical liaison meets with the student team on a regular basis to answer questions and provide technical support. The best project results are often the ones where the student team and technical liaison have had close and on-going contact, the technical liaison is well versed in the engineering problem at hand and offers sound direction to the student team members.
The best technical liaison is someone who:
- Is always up to date on the scope of the project and the expected deliverable
- Agrees to project deliverables and scope with the student team members
- Mentors the students and provides technical support throughout the project
- Communicates with the student team once or twice a week to provide information, field questions, or provide advice
- Reviews student proposals, reports, and other documents and provides good feedback in a timely fashion. Grading sheets will be provided in advance for those project sponsors who wish to have direct input on how their team is graded.
- Attends the final student project presentation on campus at the end of winter term in mid March