This semester, along with pretty much every other MechE, I am taking TE 211, or as it is more commonly called, IPD (Integrated Product Development). Its probably the most unique class in the curriculum. The way it works is that real companies come to Lehigh with specific R&D type projects that the students apply for. There is a large multidisciplinary student body that is split into small groups of six, with each group consisting of varying engineering, business, and other majors. These groups are given full control in completing the tasks handed to them. There is a wide variety of projects to choose from. The deliverables each company are seeking are different for each project. Some are focused on prototype development, creating a physical model with an accompanying business/financial model. Others might be looking for a computer simulation for some experimental process with logistical models. Another might be looking for a theoretical improvement to a manufacturing process along with cost/benefit analysis. All together I believe there are over 20 unique projects to choose from.
What really surprised me was that this is a real-life work experience. Students are given real budgets that they are free to use how they think is most appropriate. As students we all sign a contract at the beginning of the course that says that the company controls all the rights to the work we do. We also aren’t allowed to talk about proprietary information that the company gives us if they choose to do so. Before, I was under the impression that the class was more of a simulation than anything else but I now realize it really is a lot of responsibility. I personally applied for projects from Aesculap, Dresser-Rand, a local start-up, and a bioengineering research project here at Lehigh. Aesculap is a company that designs surgical instruments. Dresser-Rand designs and manufactures turbines and compressors for the oil and gas industry. The local start up is looking to design a unique bicycle-pedal clip. And the bioengineering research project is focused on microfluidic controls. Groups are supposed to be evenly balanced by major, gender, and even GPA. I wont know what group or project I will be assigned until tomorrow so I will be sure to update in the near future. I’ll also write more about the structure of the class and the topics covered in lecture so stay tuned!