Enterprise Program Puts the Students in Charge
Building a hybrid electric SUV. Evaluating groundwater and recommending ecosystem improvements. Developing hardware, software, and a test bed for wireless communications. Design and construction of pavement.
This is college?
It is at Michigan Tech, where the "student enterprise" program introduces sophomores, juniors and seniors to education across disciplines, team learning and undergraduate research.
An enterprise gives a team of students from varied disciplines the opportunity to work for two or three years in a business-like setting to solve real-world engineering problems supplied by industry.
"Students working on projects of this scale no longer feel like students," said Carl Anderson, professor of mechanical engineering and an enterprise team faculty advisor. "They feel like engineers. They take ownership of the project and that’s the magic."
Students join an enterprise during their second year and remain with the project throughout the rest of their academic careers. All enterprise employees (students) have prescribed responsibilities corresponding to their levels of abilities and technical education.
In addition to working on real-world projects, the enterprise program requires structured mini-courses or modules covering topics in communication and working in teams. Students also choose modules covering additional business issues and specialized engineering topics.
“The enterprise program will expose students to the 'real world' problems and situations they will face upon graduation,” said Gerald Haycock, director of core and advanced powertrain engineering at Ford Motor, a major supporter of enterprises. “This gives them not only the technical tools, but also critical personal and team building skills.”
Each enterprise seeks to have at least one corporate sponsor helping to drive the process. Partners provide funding for supplies, equipment and travel.
Companies also provide mentors for the students, communicating by e-mail and phone and making two visits to campus for program planning and evaluation. At the end of each year, teams submit detailed written and oral reports.