New Shape of UTDesign Program Reflects Growing Company Support
July 7, 2014
From left: UTDesign students Carlos Caicedo-Narvaez, Casio Travesi and James Smiley work on their eBike project. Texas Instruments sponsored the project and is one of the companies that has donated equipment to the new UTDesign studio.
Growing support for the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science’s award-winning senior design program is paying off for both its students and its corporate sponsors.
Under the guidance of faculty advisors, engineering and computer science students in the UTDesign program are helping partner companies create solutions to projects and giving them full ownership of the results.
“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., which now has three employees who first worked with the company through UTDesign projects.
“Students were exposed to real-world problems and delivered an exceptional prototype.”
For students, that exposure is helping to prepare them for their future careers.
By developing a project from its initial concept to its completion, they are getting a very realistic experience, said Rod Wetterskog, UTDesign program coordinator and assistant dean of corporate relations for the Jonsson School.
“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.”
Students have regular contact with industry mentors and can apply their skills to problems while experiencing the stress of a worklike environment.
“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 the program’s inception in 2009, corporate involvement has grown from six projects to more than 40 multidisciplinary projects each semester in computer science and computer, electrical, software, telecommunications and mechanical engineering. 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 in the Synergy Park North building. At more than 30,000 square feet, the new studio is among the largest in the country, program leaders said.
The space houses 29 project stations, which can be expanded to 56. The studio 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.
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.