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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI College of Engineering seeks companies with design and manufacturing problems

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 2, 2004 -- It's not often that one goes looking for problems, but that's exactly what the dean of the University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering is interested in.

He's seeking out companies that have design, development and manufacturing problems that the companies don't have the time or resources to solve. He aims to have senior-level engineering students devise the solutions as their final projects.

"I've been meeting with companies and asking them what challenges they face," said Bahram Nassersharif, dean of the college. "And by and large they all say, 'Yes, we've got problems that need to be solved' that will allow them to improve their existing designs, operations, manufacturing challenges, or to move into a new line of products or change their processes to make them more efficient or more profitable."

Nassersharif has established a new applied engineering course to begin at URI in the fall that will bring together engineering students with business students to focus on the design and development of solutions to real-world engineering issues.

"It will be a capstone design course that will give the students experience working in multi-disciplinary teams to solve real problems that companies are facing," he said.

The URI dean is seeking 8 to10 "problem statements" from companies for the fall semester, but he expects to need close to 50 per year in the future.
Based on his experience at New Mexico State University where he developed a similar program, Nassersharif said that some of the solutions the URI students develop will likely result in new patents, innovations, products, and perhaps even new companies and jobs for the region.

"We have great examples of this type of education at URI in our various engineering programs on a limited scale," Nassersharif said. "For example, our faculty in electrical and mechanical engineering joined with business faculty to design a course focusing on assistive technologies to help the physically disabled. We want to build on these best practices to engage all engineering students and include business students on these design teams.

This approach to partnership between industry and academia is what Rhode Island needs to renew innovations in products and services which in turn will accelerate economic growth and work force development."

Participating companies will be expected to contribute an average of $5,000 toward expenses incurred in the design project, mostly for the costs associated with building a prototype. Companies will also be asked to provide a project monitor to meet with the students occasionally and serve as a mentor.

At the end of the school year, the college will host a design showcase during which the students will present their solutions to a panel of judges and sponsoring companies.

Companies interested in submitting their problems for consideration by the college may contact the dean at dean@egr.uri.edu or 401-874-2186. Deadline for submission of problems for the fall semester is August 6.