Evolution of Senior Design Program Reflects Growing Support UT Dallas in the Community

Increased corporate support continues driving UTDesign, the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science’s award-winning senior design program. In turn, that support—combined with a new design studio—is elevating student enthusiasm.

Students assigned to the eBike project sponsored by Texas Instruments work in a secured project room.

By harnessing the skills and energy of engineering and computer science students, UTDesign partner companies receive creative solutions to real-life projects and full ownership of the results. Student teams work under the guidance of faculty advisors and have regular contact with industry mentors.

“Networking within the UT Dallas senior design program has enabled my company to reach specific goals within a short range of time given my available resources,” said Trey Kasling, founder and CEO of Kasling Aircraft Co. “Students were exposed to real-world problems and delivered an exceptional prototype.” Kasling now employs three individuals who first worked with the company through UTDesign projects.

By dealing with initial concepts on through project fruition, the situations provide a very realistic experience, said Rod Wetterskog, UTDesign program coordinator and assistant dean of corporate relations for the Jonsson School. Students are able to apply learned skill sets to actual problems while experiencing the accompanying business and stress elements.

“UTDesign has exceeded my expectations,” said Dr. Mark W. Spong, dean of the Jonsson School and founder of the program. “The fact that most of our corporate sponsors are repeat customers speaks to the quality of our students and this program. The opportunity to work as a team in solving real business problems is ideal preparation for life after graduation. It is not uncommon for students to receive job offers from their corporate sponsors at the end of the semester. There is no stronger endorsement.”

Since UTDesign’s inception in 2009, corporate involvement has grown from just six projects to more than 40 multidisciplinary projects in computer science and computer, electrical, software, telecommunications and mechanical engineering each semester. UTDesign also collaborates with students from the Naveen Jindal School of Management and the Arts and Technology program. The growth required a recent expansion into a larger studio space in the Synergy Park North building. At more than 30,000 square feet, the studio is one of the largest in the country, say program leaders. The space houses 29 project stations, which can be expanded to 56, and includes a computer lab, machine shop, seven conference rooms, five secured project lab rooms, a seminar room and more than $550,000 in state-of-the- art equipment donated by local companies.

Corporations that sponsored equipment for the new studio include Agilent Technologies, Cisco, HP, MSC Industrial Supply Co., National Instruments, Newark, PTC, Stratasys and Texas Instruments. Equipment donations ranged from a 3-D printer provided by Stratasys to the first inventory vending machine operated by a tablet and created by MSC. UTDesign partners such as Intuit and National Instruments are further investing in the program by providing students with additional training and external resources.

“Companies—some that participate every semester—are investing in UTDesign not just for intellectual property, but because they feel compelled to give more based on great returns on previous investments and because they’re committed to the educational process,” Wetterskog said. Learn more about corporate involvement and the program at www.utdallas.edu/utdesign.

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