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Developing Successful Industrial Interactions In Support Of Project Based Learning: An Organic Model

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Outcomes of Cooperative Education Assignments

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.459.1 - 14.459.11



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Paper Authors

author page

Daniel Walsh California Polytechnic State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Developing Successful Industrial Interactions in Support of Project Based Learning, an Organic Model


As engineering education at the undergraduate level continues to evolve, the support structure required for educational approaches such as Project-Based Learning (PBL) is expanding to include not only the Department, College, and University levels, but also significant commitments from industrial partners. While the benefits of project based learning approaches are clear, there are a number of challenges in establishing and maintaining the deep level of institutional and industrial interaction required to create a successful program. Three elements have been found to be keys to success of project based learning in the university environment. First the persistent and intimate involvement of agencies external to the university in the projects. This is critical from the standpoint of project development, realization and assessment. Second, the participation of faculty steeped in project management experience, who have the demonstrated ability to produce a “product” within a timeline. This is vital to helping student teams over the subtle hurdles to product realization. And finally, the flexibility to find ways to step outside the artificial timelines associated with university educational practice. This is essential to beginning a dialog with industry, or other external partners. Based on the results at the Project Based Learning Institute (PBLI), our external partners find project based learning valuable enough to underwrite a major portion of its direct costs as well as to support it with the participation of their employees. The partnership satisfies three critical objectives. First, it enhances the curricular objectives of the college and satisfies the learning outcomes required of our students. Second, it provides a mechanism to underwrite educational costs by delivering value to industrial partners, a vital college constituent group. Third, it provides a vehicle to bridge the void between our professors and their colleagues in industry, providing common ground for communication and a vehicle to professional development.


The development of a robust industrial interaction underpins many successful academic programs on a variety of levels.1,2,3 PBLI has provided a new relevance to students and faculty in tying their work directly to external agencies. Work becomes more meaningful and fulfilling as its significance is defined in its relation to, and impact on, other things. PBLI participants do not have the common academic flaw of possessing an answer in search of a question. Instead, through strong relationships between industry and academia they develop the pertinent questions and seek relevant answers.

To maintain or enhance its position in the 21st century, the U.S. will rely on a continuous supply of well-educated, professionally-oriented engineers to augment those educated in the traditional research-based programs focused on the Ph.D. pipeline. Engineering education in the United States replicated the template employed in educational programs housed in colleges of science. These templates were developed in reaction to a report prepared in 1945 in reaction to experiences during World War II.4 Engineering programs grew mimicking these structures and developed policies typical of the colleges of science. This one-size-fits-all approach neglects

Walsh, D. (2009, June), Developing Successful Industrial Interactions In Support Of Project Based Learning: An Organic Model Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5387

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