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Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education (2012)

Chapter: University of California, San Diego

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Suggested Citation:"University of California, San Diego." National Academy of Engineering. 2012. Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18184.

Team Internship Program (TIP)

Lead Institution: University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA

Category: Course/Curricular/ Industry/Internship

Date Implemented: Summer 2003




Program Description: Through UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering’s Summer Team Internship Program (TIP), students receive real-world industry experience in a multidisciplinary team environment. This experience builds their leadership skills while developing critical systems engineering understanding. During the program, students work on-site with industry partners as a multi-disciplinary team focused on a significant engineering project. Students work as paid full-time employees over a 10-12 week period during the summer. Teams consist of 2-5 members, each with distinct engineering experience and training. Participants can be at the undergraduate, master’s, or Ph.D. level. The program is available to all engineering majors and in some cases teams will include MBA, cognitive science, visual arts, or other majors from UCSD or other universities. The majority of the internship projects are located in San Diego or Silicon Valley but also include opportunities for students to work internationally. Past international teams included projects in China, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, and Liechtenstein, among others. TIP staff advertises the project, pre-screens student candidates, expedites the selection of teams, and provides team engineering training before students depart campus for their summer internships. In addition to the team approach, TIP is unique in that sponsors are required to pre-define a significant project for the students. As a result, students achieve innovative, high-quality outputs in a shorter period of time with noteworthy results, which in turn drive the return on investment (ROI) for the project sponsor. The added benefit is that the company sponsor is able to spend more time mentoring the team on the larger objectives rather than minute details, which reduces the effort required to supervise a single intern. The majority of the teams are multi-disciplinary, and by combining multiple majors and grade-levels on one project, the students are able to consult with one another to leverage their individual expertise and learn new skills across traditional engineering disciplines, thus building a systems approach to innovative thinking and problem solving. Starting with one team in 2003, TIP has placed 717 students on 248 teams with 66 different companies. Each year the program grows, involving more students and companies while retaining past sponsors.

Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: For the Jacobs School’s students, TIP provides opportunities to embed themselves in real-world, hands-on, interdisciplinary industry engineering experience. Students enhance their communication and leadership skills while also developing critical team-oriented and systems engineering understanding. Students contribute to tangible outcomes including prototypes; product or process plans and evaluations; product re-design; technical documents; and patent applications. Our corporate partners’ objectives are to hire top talent and get innovative ideas that they would not otherwise have through internal R&D efforts. Industry and government sponsors get: a targeted and streamlined recruitment campaign; exposure to future employees; competitive insights, fresh perspectives, and a unique valuation of a project; high potential in proofs, prototypes, products, and patents; and optimized cost efficiency along with maximized quality output. The majority of interns are offered continued part-time employment during school or full-time employment after graduation. In some cases, the company sponsors have completely shifted their intern strategy to the TIP model.

Assessment Information: The program is assessed both through final presentations by the students and through a survey of the students and the corporate sponsors. Students give a formal presentation on their project results to company managers and UCSD faculty and staff. This final presentation promotes TIP across the company and gives the interns the opportunity to present their ideas to a senior audience. At the conclusion of the internship each summer, students and company sponsors are asked to assess the program. Amongst the students surveyed in summer 2011, 63% were extended offers to continue their internships or for full-time employment; 67% of students stated that TIP influenced the focus of their studies and/or career aspirations; and 96% of student participants would recommend TIP to a friend. Amongst the companies surveyed in summer 2011, 100% said they would host a TIP team again. Sponsors value the following benefits of TIP (ranked in order): prescreening of resumes, training in leadership, on-campus exposure, and on-campus interviews. On average, at least 2 patents result from TIP team work each summer.

Funding/Sustainability: The program has a budget of $6,000 plus the salary of 1 full-time staff member. The program’s budget is re-evaluated each year based on metrics that involve industry value, student experience and innovation opportunities as well as program efficiency. The program sustains itself by converting Team Internship Program company sponsors into Corporate Affiliates Program members who pay a yearly fee ranging from $3,000 to $25,000. We are also considering a fee for access to the program from companies that are not members of our Corporate Affiliates Program. In addition, the sponsor companies pay salaries directly to the students. The corporations continually find value in the team internship format. For example, in the first year of the program, there was 1 team with 3 interns, and it cost the company less than $25k to support the team while the CEO remarked it would have cost him at least $150k to implement the project the students completed inside the company.

Suggested Citation:"University of California, San Diego." National Academy of Engineering. 2012. Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18184.
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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.

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