Clemson University; Connecting Industry with the Ideas and Workforce of the Future

Clemson University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering partners with South Carolina industry in many ways.  One very active way is in the final “capstone” undergraduate course that every senior takes.  Students must demonstrate mastery of the engineering design process by proposing solutions to real, current topics.  And where better to find those topics than in the activities of our robust state manufacturing ecosystem?

Each semester, the mechanical engineering department partners with several companies to address specific topics.  Five to eight such projects are undertaken each semester. Students divide up into teams of three to five members, and each team tackles a single project. We intentionally have more teams than projects, which means multiple teams come up with different solutions on the same topic. Thus, the partner company gets multiple proposals addressing its question.  This is often cited by past partners as a key benefit.

Environmental portrait of Dr. John Saylor and him working with students in his lab.

Other benefits include fresh perspectives on the topic, creating or building name recognition on campus, face-to-face access to graduating students who may become employees, and direct input to the educational process.

In the past, teams have tackled manufacturing process improvements, waste reduction, product testing apparatus, and even some product design.  Working in teams, these student mechanical engineers are versatile in the types of subjects they can tackle.  Faculty advisors are assigned to coach the teams as they progress through the project and to serve as a point of contact for the industry partner.

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