June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
12.1603.1 - 12.1603.13
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. https://peer.asee.org/2410
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