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Welcome To The "Real World" Balancing Practical, Legal, And Educational Issues In Implementing Industrial Sponsored Student Design Experiences

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Patenting & IP Issues for Commercializing University-Developed Technology and Launching Innovative Technical Entrepreneurship Ventures in Universities

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1603.1 - 12.1603.13



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Paper Authors


James Baker Michigan Technological University

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Jim Baker is currently the Director of the Office of Technology and Economic Development at Michigan Technological University. Jim's current responsibilities include handling University inventions from disclosure, through patenting, and licensing and working with students and academic units related to broader aspects of intellectual property law and technology commercialization. He also works on negotiating terms for sponsored research contracts, non-disclosure agreements, material transfer agreements, and other related agreements with industrial partners. Jim is a registered Patent Agent and holds a B.S. in Environmental Engineering, an M.S. in Civil Engineering and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University.

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Mary Raber Michigan Technological University

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Ms. Mary Raber is the director of the Enterprise Program at MTU. In this role, she secures funding and projects from external sources, oversees day-to-day operation of the program and teaches various instructional modules in the curriculum. Prior to Michigan Tech, Ms. Raber worked in the automotive industry for 14 years, holding various positions in engineering and management. Mary holds a B.S.M.E. degree from the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from Wayne State University.

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Richard Berkey Michigan Technological University

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Rick Berkey works in Michigan Technological University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, as a Senior Research Engineer II/Project Manager. In this role, Rick acts as a primary point-of-contact for the identification, planning, and coordination of industrial-sponsored Senior Design and Enterprise projects. Prior to working for Michigan Tech, Rick spent twelve years in the automotive, commercial vehicle, and consumer products industries, working for Honeywell, Dana Corporation, and Applied Technologies, Inc. His career progressed through positions in product design, materials engineering, and Six Sigma. Rick holds a BSME from the University of Toledo, an MBA from Bowling Green State University, and is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt.

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

Welcome to the “Real World” - Balancing Practical, Legal, and Educational Issues in Implementing Industrial Sponsored Student Design Experiences


Engineering programs across the U.S. have long recognized the value of incorporating “real- world” active learning experiences into the curriculum. ABET’s EC2000 Criterion 4 further solidified the approach of the many engineering programs that offer a “real-world” team-based senior capstone design experience with its mandate that students be provided a “culminating major design experience which incorporates appropriate engineering standards and multiple realistic constraints1”. While these types of project experiences can be “created” within engineering departments, many programs have found that the most effective “real-world” experience comes from projects that are defined and sponsored by industry. Students participating in these projects have the opportunity for mentoring by industrial project managers and face an increased expectation of results and diligence similar to what they will encounter when they begin their professional careers. In addition to technical and project management experience, these students also gain valuable skills in such things as client development, structuring business relationships, and intellectual property management and rights distribution.

At Michigan Technological University, both the Senior Design Program and the more extensive Enterprise Program rely heavily on the supply of these “real-world” project experiences from industry. In this model, the industry sponsor typically provides financial and technical support and becomes a “client” of sorts to the student project team. The financial and technical involvement of external project sponsors introduces a number of related issues such as project deliverables, sponsorship costs, non-disclosure requirements, publication/presentation review, and intellectual property rights. While providing a more holistic experience, the handling of these issues often presents a further challenge of balancing the primary educational mission and scope of the projects against sponsor expectations for value from their investment of effort and financial resources. Furthermore, Michigan Tech views these project experiences to be a potential IP generator through student development of new products and technologies that could then ideally be commercialized through licensing or new business start-ups. How rights to this student generated IP are negotiated then becomes a key factor in allowing for this possibility.

For industrially sponsored projects, this results in an analysis, and often negotiation, of reasonable distributions of IP rights and sharing of proceeds from commercialization of that IP. This requires finding an optimum where not only the sponsor is comfortable with the investment of financial and intellectual resources but where the students also have some reasonable opportunity to benefit from the relative value that their independent creativity generates. Furthermore, as observing parties to the negotiation, students can be engaged in discussions with contract personnel on both sides about the relative value of their ideas versus the value of the experience and input that the sponsor is providing. This process can lead to a more sophisticated understanding of the relative value of ideas and the importance of commercial experience and execution than students would otherwise obtain strictly through classroom exercises.

Baker, J., & Raber, M., & Berkey, R. (2007, June), Welcome To The "Real World" Balancing Practical, Legal, And Educational Issues In Implementing Industrial Sponsored Student Design Experiences Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2410

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