National Academies Press: OpenBook

Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education (2012)

Chapter: Grand Valley State University

« Previous: West Virginia University
Suggested Citation:"Grand Valley State University." National Academy of Engineering. 2012. Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18184.

The Scaffolded GVSU Co-op to Interdisciplinary Industry-based Capstone Project Program

Lead Institution: Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI

Collaborating Institutions: Over 220 partner organizations from 1993 to 2011, including for-profit industry partners, governmental (municipalities, state/federal entities), and educational (primarily other universities)

Category: Co-Op

Date Implemented: August 1987




Program Description: The objective of this program from its inception has been to prepare graduating engineers who are truly “industry ready” as they move from their undergraduate programs into the industry sector. The major activities of this program include: (1) A cooperative education program that is integrated into the undergraduate experience for all engineering students. Elements of this include: a cooperative education preparation course that provides the students with background regarding the expectations of employers, real-world ethics case studies, and the processes for placement with an employer; three semesters of co-op experience which are supervised by both an industry supervisor and a faculty member, including work experience, reflective journaling, online modules addressing topics such as ethics and engineering economics, and faculty site visits. (2) The industry-sponsored interdisciplinary capstone project program, in which interdisciplinary teams of engineering students are formed into “contract design and build” project teams; all projects are sponsored by industry partners drawn from the co-op employer base who act as customers; engineering faculty guide the student teams and act as additional technical and managerial resources; and the finished products are delivered to the sponsor companies and generally go into immediate use in production, testing, or new product introduction. A project is deemed to be successfully completed when it is accepted not only by the faculty, but also by the industrial sponsor. In addition to academic reporting and design documentation, typical project deliverables include user’s guides and troubleshooting manuals. The units involved in this “scaffolded” approach to preparing graduates for engineering practice include all engineering disciplines engaged in the cooperative education program through supervision of co-op students (computer, electrical, interdisciplinary, mechanical, product design & manufacturing) and the Career Services Office and the Career Counseling Center, which partners with the School of Engineering in the preparation, placement, and supervision processes for co-op students. All engineering disciplines engage in the capstone project program through team teaching of the courses and supervision of the projects.

Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: Many of the program outcomes outlined by ABET are formally identified and regularly assessed as outcomes for this program. ABET outcomes d, f, g, h, j, and k are formally assessed during the coop program, including direct feedback on individual students by industry supervisors from the student’s workplace. ABET outcomes c, d, i and j are formally assessed during the capstone senior project. Students have achieved levels of 75% or higher for all program outcomes identified. Other outcomes realized through this program include high retention and graduation rates of students in the academic majors, regular interaction with industry partners that have led to several industry-sponsored projects in other courses at the junior and senior level in the curriculum, and a high rate of success among the students sitting for the FE exam each year.

Assessment Information: The assessment plan for the co-op experience consists of assessment of students every semester from early in the junior year through the time of graduation by industry supervisors. In addition to ABET outcomes, each student is assessed for their work habits, completion of work products, technical knowledge and competence, and interaction with others inside and outside the organization. In addition, the faculty adviser for each student conducts visits to each worksite and meets with the student and worksite supervisor to review the student’s work. Students also complete assessments of their co-op experience. The senior capstone program is assessed yearly for ABET outcomes. In addition, industry partners on the projects provide continuous, real-time feedback to the students and faculty coordinators as the sponsored projects are being completed. This assessment data is reviewed and evaluated at least once per year by each academic program and is used for continuous improvement of each program on an annual basis.

Funding/Sustainability: Creation of the cooperative education component was supported by over $300,000 in funding from our industrial partners to support faculty time. Creation of the senior project program is funded by participating companies and ranges from approximately $75,000 for the first year of operation to up to $250,000 in recent years. Support has been continuous since 1987 for the co-op program and 1998 for the capstone project program. Sustainable funding for the cooperative education program has been accomplished through creating an endowed chair to play a primary role in coordinating the engineering co-op program, hiring an Associate Director and Director of Engineering Cooperative Education within the Career Services Office, and integration of the supervision of coop students within the teaching assignments of engineering faculty, which results in the use of approximately 2 FTE faculty each year. This is an element of the ongoing base budget for the School of Engineering.

Suggested Citation:"Grand Valley State University." National Academy of Engineering. 2012. Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18184.
Page 14
Next: Northwestern University »
Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education Get This Book
Buy Ebook | $9.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

The aim of this report is to encourage enhanced richness and relevance of the undergraduate engineering education experience, and thus produce better-prepared and more globally competitive graduates, by providing practical guidance for incorporating real world experience in US engineering programs. The report, a collaborative effort of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), builds on two NAE reports on The Engineer of 2020 that cited the importance of grounding engineering education in real world experience. This project also aligns with other NAE efforts in engineering education, such as the Grand Challenges of Engineering, Changing the Conversation, and Frontiers of Engineering Education.

This publication presents 29 programs that have successfully infused real world experiences into engineering or engineering technology undergraduate education. The Real World Engineering Education committee acknowledges the vision of AMD in supporting this project, which provides useful exemplars for institutions of higher education who seek model programs for infusing real world experiences in their programs. The NAE selection committee was impressed by the number of institutions committed to grounding their programs in real world experience and by the quality, creativity, and diversity of approaches reflected in the submissions. A call for nominations sent to engineering and engineering technology deans, chairs, and faculty yielded 95 high-quality submissions. Two conditions were required of the nominations: (1) an accredited 4-year undergraduate engineering or engineering technology program was the lead institutions, and (2) the nominated program started operation no later than the fall 2010 semester. Within these broad parameters, nominations ranged from those based on innovations within a single course to enhancements across an entire curriculum or institution.

Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education is intended to provide sufficient information to enable engineering and engineering technology faculty and administrators to assess and adapt effective, innovative models of programs to their own institution's objectives. Recognizing that change is rarely trivial, the project included a brief survey of selected engineering deans concern in the adoption of such programs.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!