While each team had different goals and formats, I was able to find a trend between a few. Firstly, every project valued teamwork and getting real work exposure. There was a trend of students who felt like they lacked something in their bachelor program that this program fulfilled. Since the bachelor program is so textbook and exam focused and doesn’t leave time for students to take internships, the graduates don’t feel prepared to go into the business world, so they use this program to get hands-on experience and apply what they have learned. A few students also mentioned the networking opportunities that this program created, because some of the team members end up working for the partners of their project after graduating. Personal skills are a trend of why students are taking the course. It is important to them to get to know the business world better and have the opportunity to make mistakes and try things before being in a job environment. The project itself gives the students more room to play. It also gives the students more experiences so they have a better idea as to what they want to do for a job before they enter the workforce. The most common trend was to broaden the experiences they each had in engineering to achieve their learning and career goals.
Besides for these opportunities, the experience in each of the teams (as well as what role of the team you take up) can vary drastically. I’ll now describe the four teams. The first team I met with, Qlaudit, is very focused on the management and business aspects of engineering companies. They follow trends of the lean start-up. One of their most valuable lessons was how nothing is as simple as it appears and that you always have to think about the people.
The CQS Group Racing team takes older cars and makes them ecologically efficient and sets them up for racing. Although it is a very technical project, every student takes on a managerial role and it is very design focused based on the needs of the pilot. They learned about the importance of detail-oriented work. He mentioned that in school details aren’t important because homework assignments only need to be completed until they can get a decent enough grade, unlike projects for actual clients where things need to be finished down to every last detail.
The CORE team is an energy focused team where they are working on multiple different projects focusing on energy efficiency in mobility, industrial, house and society. They truly allow students to discover their interests through a wide range of projects and roles. One of the members choose the postgraduate program because they were so excited about the project, while another one wanted to get a broader picture of engineering. He felt there was so much more than what was taught in classes.
Finally, the Electric Race Car team is designing a car for racing. Of all teams, they were probably the furthest from the business aspects of the project. Their team focused on the design and of the car and the teamwork required for such a large project. They brought up some interesting points about how the courses, if not chosen correctly, could really take away from the project. Also, some of the classes are taken too late to be helpful with the project. He thought it would be more valuable if the courses as well had more teamwork and projects in them.
Communication was also a theme amongst all of the projects. Explaining what we do as engineers to our clients and partners can be quite difficult, but is crucial to a successful product and project. It seems like a skill that is very well taught in the program
Each team looked at User Centered Design very differently. The CQS team could really use the design properties of UCD when working with their pilots. They now check what they are doing with the pilots, but if they knew UCD, it could be a better way to communicate and learn from them. The Qlaudit team thought UCD would be heard to teach and not sure how people would approach it. He said that after hearing the explanation he believed it is a very valuable thing to learn and it would be very important to learn how to work with the customer, but he wasn’t sure how many people would actually pick to do it. The race car team didn’t think they would need it, because they are creating a product and not designing it for a user. Finally, the CORE team was very excited about UCD, thought it was of number 1 importance. They said “if you don’t take UCD into account, how can you cause change?” They are often looking for designers to help because they aren’t taught these concepts. Since they are very focused on creating energy focused change, they would be a great match for both UCD and CSE and were very excited about UCD.
What I’ve learned from today is that although there is a lot of variety in the program, there are some points that could really benefit from the ideals of CSE. Specifically the UCD component that CSE teaches is lacking in PPIEE. At least from the team perspective, if a CSE UCD class is offered, I could really see some teams encouraging or requiring it to be taken. Also, it seems like students could join these teams and take a societal role, so the community service aspect is already a part of it if the students want it to be. I also believe that in the future, it could be possible to add another team project to PPIEE that is completely focused on community service. This would allow students who would do a CSE program to work in a team but still get all of the advantages of CSE. I can definitely see where the concepts of CSE would improve this program and offer a new piece of knowledge and how the integration could very much help CSE.