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Company-sponsored Projects

Paul Harris

You can tap RIT student teams to find new solutions to your company’s real-world problems. Capstone projects, innovation projects, and special university team weekends all offer opportunities for company partners to bring their current challenges to energetic, tech-savvy students to solve. And while students are working on new approaches, your employees can be reenergized by serving as mentors, judges, and coaches. A number of sponsored project opportunities can be found across campus including:

  • Multidisciplinary Senior Design projects in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering can help you design and refine a new or existing product based on your client needs.
  • Future Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs in the Saunders College of Business will provide data collection and analysis, and develop an implementable solution to a business problem.
  • IdeaLab in the Simone Center for Student Innovation & Entrepreneurship is a 48 hour problem-solving and prototyping event for student teams from across RIT.
  • Sponsored capstone projects for seniors in most colleges offer the chance to have a student or student team focus on the specific challenges of your company, industry or research field.

Idealab Projects – Sponsoring Solutions

Mix students from several RIT degree programs, experienced professionals as coaches, and real industry-sponsored problems. Shake for 48 hours, and serve up solutions that provide effective solutions to companies and incredible learning experiences for students.

That’s the whole idea behind RIT’s IdeaLab.

IdeaLab brings student teams together for one weekend – 48 hours – to design innovative solutions for problems proposed by the participating sponsor. Each team works under the guidance of an RIT faculty member and a sponsoring administrator. On Sunday afternoon, the teams present their approaches to their project sponsor. Successful projects can be extended into student research projects, product and service development projects, and potentially new businesses.

RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship works with the sponsoring organization to identify appropriate and unique problems to tackle in a 48 hour session. Simone Center then works with the RIT colleges to pull a mix of students together into an effective team with the right knowledge and skills to solve the problem, including students trained in problem-solving, design, technology, and marketing.

Then the problem solving begins.

The weekend-long seminar includes RIT coaches, professionals from the sponsoring organization, and other discipline-specific professionals to brainstorm, outline, design, revise, prototype, test, and refine several workable concepts to address the sponsor’s problem. If the sponsor finds a solution that interests them, they can move to an IdeaMake semester, during which the student team will develop a testable prototype or a refined process solution. If the solution is deemed commercially viable, it may spawn a business startup, or be commercialized by the sponsoring corporation.

Not Your Father’s Capstone Project

Career defining. That’s how many RIT engineering graduates describe their experience working on their Multidisciplinary Senior Design projects. These experiential, real-world projects introduce students to life as a professional engineer by guiding them through the design-build-test process.

It’s much more than developing an idea to a rough prototype. For many, it’s the first time they see a project through from start-to-finish, and the first time the end result is a solution that works, is a benefit to end users, and can be produced in the real world.

It’s intimidating, frustrating, and requires skills that are new to many – communication, defining customer requirements, extensive documentation, and risk management, for example. It is also tremendously rewarding.

As one of the real-world project guides says, MSD is a crucible journey that teaches the value of process, risk assessment, decision making instead of instruction following, and how to plan for and respond to failure.

In other words, it’s real engineering.

MSD projects aren’t just educational. Funded by sponsors with interest in a particular field or companies that propose specific projects, they also produce beneficial, and often commercially attractive solutions to unique problems. The solutions are the result of teams that include students from across the engineering spectrum, as well as team members from other disciplines at RIT such as health sciences, industrial design, and computing. Typically, team expend more than 1,300 person-hours of effort to reach a fully developed, high-impact solution.

RIT’s Kate Gleason College was one of the first to formally introduce multidisciplinary design projects as part of its undergraduate engineering program. Today, more than 400 fourth- and fifth-year engineering students enroll in a two-semester MSD studio course that features significant instructor interaction and hands-on design work.

Each team is led by an experienced engineer from industry – their “guide.” Guides are a critical component of MSD projects, as they provide real-world knowledge of process and professional expectations that students take into their careers. They serve as personal and professional mentors to students, helping them to develop strong work practices and learn finer process points of scoping a project, planning for launch, and higher-level project management skills.

Projects can address virtually any industry sector, but typically fall into one of the following themes:

  • Biomedical systems & assistive technology
  • Energy & sustainable systems
  • Printing & imaging systems
  • Vehicle & transportation systems
  • Automated systems & controls
  • Chemical & material processing
  • Process innovation/operations research