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Mentored, Unpaid Design Team Internship Experience

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

UAV and other Team Projects in Aerospace Engineering

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Peter J. Schubert Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

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Schubert is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and serves as the Director of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy ( and is the faculty advisor for Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at IUPUI. He holds 40 US Patents, a Professional Engineering License (Illinois), and has published over 95 technical papers and book chapters. Schubert has managed research projects from USDA, NASA, DOE, NSF, and DoD.

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An international team of 7 undergraduate interns working pro bono during the summer made significant advances in several areas of Space Solar Power. Distinct from a capstone design effort, this study group revived the practice common in the 1970s and 1980s of considering broad topics of high relevance to public citizens and elected decision-makers. Significant obstacles to success included lack of research experience, lack of motivating paycheck, and a highly-complex system under study. Each student was assigned a mentor from the aerospace industry or academia to guide the creation of a research plan, and to periodically review progress. Team-building exercises were conducted to develop relationships, and weekly team workshops were held to teach interoperability with other subsystems. Student experiences shifted from excitement at the outset to a sense of being overwhelmed with the magnitude and difficulties associated with a space-based project running in the tens of billions of dollars. Yet, each student was able to overcome such mid-term concerns, and to make a meaningful contribution to a key research question. Their results were published at a national space conference with all students listed as co-authors. The present work assesses the formation of such an unpaid team and the management thereof, analyzes the techniques used to encourage desired outcomes, and finishes with post-project follow-up on perceptions and career choices. This approach may find interest among professors with limited funds who seek to develop solid preliminary data to make grant applications more competitive.

Schubert, P. J. (2016, June), Mentored, Unpaid Design Team Internship Experience Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25710

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