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Cross-Cohort Research Experience for Project Management and Leadership Development

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computing and Information Technology Programs II

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Yung-Hsiang Lu Purdue University

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Yung-Hsiang Lu is an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and (by courtesy) the Department of Computer Science of Purdue University. He is an ACM distinguished scientist and ACM distinguished speaker. He is a member in the organizing committee of the IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative. He is the lead organizer of the first Low-Power Image Recognition Challenge in 2015, the chair (2014-2016) of the Multimedia Communication Systems Interest Group in IEEE Multimedia Communications Technical Committee. He obtained the Ph.D. from the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University.

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Thomas J. Hacker Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Thomas J. Hacker is an Associate Professor of Computer and Information Technology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. His research interests include cyberinfrastructure systems, high performance computing, and the reliability of large-scale supercomputing systems. He holds a PhD in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is a member of IEEE, the ACM, and ASEE.

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Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Zoltowski’s academic and research interests broadly include the professional formation of engineers and diversity and inclusion in engineering, with specific interests in human-centered design, engineering ethics, leadership, service-learning, assistive-technology, and accessibility.

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Jan P. Allebach Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Jan P. Allebach is Hewlett-Packard Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. Allebach is a Fellow of the IEEE, the National Academy of Inventors, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T), and SPIE. He was named Electronic Imaging Scientist of the Year by IS&T and SPIE, and was named Honorary Member of IS&T, the highest award that IS&T bestows. He has received the IEEE Daniel E. Noble Award, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He currently serves as an IEEE Signal Processing Society Distinguished Lecturer (2016-2017).

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Project management and leadership skills are essential for career development. However, in typical university settings students take different courses, hence they work on different projects in different teams every semester. As a result, students lack opportunities to work on multiyear projects, and consequently miss opportunities to develop the skills essential for long-term planning. To remedy this situation, our department has created courses that allow students from all years (first-year students to graduate students) to work on research projects under the supervision of faculty members and the mentorship of senior graduate students. These projects provide the opportunities for students to learn many skills essential in the workplace, such as (1) understanding how projects are designed and managed; (2) taking responsibilities on different components in the projects; (3) learning computer tools for collaboration and integration; (4) developing leadership skills; (5) cultivating self-learning; and (6) improving communication, both speaking and writing. This paper reports one project that involves undergraduate, master, and doctoral students. The project, now in its fourth-year, builds computer tools for researchers, educators, and students. The project has received an award in a student competition, and three grants for international collaboration, entrepreneurship, and big data analytics. This paper describes the project in detail and shares experiences on many crucial factors in creating a successful cross-cohort research project.

Research experience is not required in the standard curriculum followed by many programs; thus, is is essential to recruit well qualified and interested students. From the beginning of this project, there was a clear goal to create software tools that could be made available to the research community. The opportunity to serve real users is appealing to many students. In order to build software tools for users, this project has established rigorous procedures common in commercial software development such as version control, testing, documentation, and so on. Leadership development is another key component: if a student continues in this project, the student may be promoted to lead a subteam or the entire team. In addition to learning technical skills, the team has participated in multiple student competitions and has won the second prize in one competition. This project also encourages entrepreneurship: a group of students have been interviewing potential customers exploring the feasibility of commercializing the technology. Three foreign institutions are collaborators of the project and the students have experience working with these collaborators through video conferencing.

Lu, Y., & Hacker, T. J., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Allebach, J. P. (2016, June), Cross-Cohort Research Experience for Project Management and Leadership Development Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26604

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