Hi, Dave, thanks for your comment and for telling me about your class. It sounds great--something that benefits both the students and the community, giving the students hands-on practice in the real world. And I also like that it's open to anyone who wants to take it and learn how to develop these projects. I'll take a look at the information you provided.
I agree it is important to provide courses that exercise students knowledge in a practical way. This prpares them for the real world. Key elements of these courses are team-work, working closely with a "client", using an engineering design process, critical thinking, and communication (both written and oral).
Another example is the course I teach at Stanford - Perspectives in Assistive Technology - where students work on projects that benefit an individual with a disability or an older adult in the local community. Projects are "pitched" in class and come from researchers, family members, health care professionals, as well as people with disabilities or older adults. The projects represent real-world problems.
This is a ten-week course open to everyone, not just engineering students. Class sessions are filled with guest lecturers, field trips to local facilities, and an assistive technology faire.
Community members (several have disabilities) are encouraged to attend the class sessions and add to the in-class discussions.
I'm glad you enjoyed the post, bobjengr. It is always good to hear the perspective of someone in the industry as well. I think, too, this is just a more practical way to design things that customers in a particular market really need and it just makes sense to have this kind of program in place. I can't imagine why more universities and research institutes aren't doing it. I think it could not only benefit industries by giving professionals in them the products they want, but also save a lot of time and money.
I think the approach is excellent and should be duplicated as often as possible by university engineering departments. This will give the students "hands-on" experience and allow them to solve, or at least approach solving, real-world problems faced on a daily basis. At GE, this is what we called quality functional deployment (QFD). Taking customer "wants" and transferring them into specifications usable enough to produce an actual product. Great experience for an engineering student. Great post Elizabeth--very informative.
I couldn't agree more, CLMcDade. I like the idea that "everybody in the class has to be able to do the math, the analysis, the real dimension drwaings." It's nice to know that there's such practical application of knowledge outside the realm of the senior design project.
@Cabe: Huh? R&D spending on healthcare is much larger than R&D spending on smartphones. U.S. healthcare and life science companies spent $182 billion on R&D in 2012. That's not even counting government spending on healthcare R&D. That's just private sector spending.
Apple spent $3.4 billion on R&D in 2012, and smartphones are only part of that. Add in Microsoft ($9.8 billion) and Google ($5.2 billion), and that's still less than a tenth of healthcare R&D.
In the U.S., we spend nearly 18% of GDP ($8233 per person per year) on healthcare. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't spend that much on a smartphone.
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