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Work in Progress: Entrepreneurship and Senior Design Program Collaboration Towards Multidisciplinary Design

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship and Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Rachana Ashok Gupta North Carolina State University at Raleigh Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rachana A Gupta is currently a Teaching Professor and Director of the ECE Senior Design Program. She teaches and mentors several senior design students on industry-sponsored projects (On average 25 / semester) to complete an end product. These projects include all aspects of System Engineering: concept design, product design and design trade-offs, prototyping, and testing (circuit design, PCB, mechanical fabrication, algorithm development). These projects have included Robotics Platforms, Planning, Monitoring and Control algorithms, Sensor Interface, User Interfaces, Wireless communication, Signal Processing, etc. All of this involves direction and teaching teams to use the required tools and apply engineering skills to transform a concept into a product. She also manages interdisciplinary senior design projects in collaboration with other engineering departments such as Textiles Engineering, mechanical engineering, etc. Beyond senior design, she has also created and teaches undergraduate and graduate-level classes in ECE (Python in Engineering, Practical Engineering Prototyping (PrEP). She also has designed and taught ECE Robotics summer camp (2012-2017).
Dr. Gupta earned her Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from the University of Pune, India, and received her MS and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University (2010). Her Ph.D. was to design computer vision algorithms for autonomous navigation for cars. She started her own engineering consulting company in 2010, working on product development projects such as an automated air suspension system for vehicles, an active suspension system for heavy-duty off-road vehicles (currently DARPA funded), a vision tracking system for race cars tracks, etc. She joined NCState as Assistant Teaching Professor in 2012. Dr. Gupta’s current research projects focus on sensor systems and engineering design education.

Dr. Gupta likes to tinker with new technology and work on small hobby projects in her basement lab. Her other hobbies include reading, classical dancing, and traveling.

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Marshall Brain North Carolina State University at Raleigh

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Marshall Brain is most widely known as the founder of, an award-winning website that offers clear, objective and easy-to-understand explanations of how the world around us actually works. The site, which he created as a hobby and took through several rounds of venture funding totaling approximately $8 million, was purchased for $250 million by Discovery Communications in 2007.

As a well-known public speaker with the ability to deliver complex material in a way that is easily understood by audiences of all types, Brain is a regular guest on radio and TV programs nationwide. He has been featured on everything from CNN and Good Morning America to The Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2008 and 2009, he was the host of the National Geographic channel's Factory Floor With Marshall Brain, a series of one-hour factory tours taking the viewer on a journey into the world of product design, engineering and manufacturing.

Brain is the author of more than a dozen books, including "The Engineering Book" from Sterling Press, as well as a number of widely known web publications including How to Make a Million Dollars, Robotic Nation and Manna. His book The Teenager's Guide to the Real World is now in its tenth printing and was selected for the New York Public Library's prestigious "Books for the Teen Age" list. He frequently works with students at all levels to help them understand science and technology topics, entrepreneurship and how the world works.

Today Marshall Brain is the director of the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program at North Carolina State University, and lives with his wife and four children in Cary, NC.

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Creating collaborative design projects between the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) and the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department’s Senior Design (ECE SD) program didn’t only add value to both programs but also proved to be a key aspect in building a foundation for true multi-disciplinary senior design at North Carolina State University (NC State). The EEP supports multi-disciplinary teams where seniors from several engineering departments form a team and suggest a solution to an existing real-life problem. They also devise a viable business around it based on the market and implement the first basic prototype. On the other hand, in the ECE SD program, a team of ECE engineers is given a problem by an outside entity called the Sponsor (industry, academia, company, individual, etc.). The sponsored team then produces a viable product design solution to the problem, builds multiple product prototypes, tests, and verifies them based on the product requirements. While the EEP program focuses mainly on market exploration, customer study, and business planning, the ECE SD program’s direction is towards system engineering, product design exploration, prototype building, verification, and in some cases, manufacturability. Therefore, the authors saw a clear opportunity to collaborate and broaden the horizons of both programs and deserving teams on both sides. This collaboration enabled creating a model and platform for multi-disciplinary engagement from students and faculty in engineering capstone design. The authors implemented this collaboration model with a pilot project three years ago. This model was slightly modified based on the lessons learned and learning outcomes reported by the participating EEP and ECE SD teams. This model brought forth some keen observations and lessons, which the authors have seen as the first step in forming a comprehensive multi-disciplinary design program. The preliminary impact of these steps is that 15 to 20% of the ECE SD program’s design projects are multi-disciplinary (with 6 to 8 faculty members from several departments as mentors) and are growing. This growing multi-disciplinary collaboration has also brought in additional annual funding. This paper shares the structure, phases, advantages, outcomes, and impact of this collaboration model, which can be amended to collaborations between other programs. The paper also describes successes, failures, and learning lessons from this multi-disciplinary collaboration model and closes with the next steps.

Gupta, R. A., & Brain, M. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Entrepreneurship and Senior Design Program Collaboration Towards Multidisciplinary Design Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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