Continuous Integration Program

The Continuous Integration Program (CIP) in the Surface Metrology Laboratory (Surf Met Lab) is a pilot program by which we hope to demonstrate that it is possible to evolve engineering education so that it is significantly more effective in preparing students to be well-trained engineers.

The Surf Met Lab and its industrial partners will benefit from the extra personnel to assist in research. Industry will benefit from the availability of better-prepared engineers, with whom industry has been able to work during their education.

The immediate benefits for the undergraduate students will include the opportunity to earn independent study or major qualifying project (MQP, or undergraduate major thesis) credits and the satisfaction of working on a research team. They will also have special access to a learning community of professors, graduate students, and personnel from industry.

The CIP in the Surf Met Lab will provide a mechanism for companies to grow their own employees. Students will be working with personnel from partner companies during the academic year on projects. Lab partners could offer the students a logical sequence of three, three-month summer jobs during their undergraduate careers. For example, during the summer following the first year of study, a student might get some experience on the factory floor; after the second year a student might work as a technician for the summer;and the summer before the senior year the students could be handling some engineering tasks. This sequence could continue for students wishing to continue on for graduate work.

In the Surf Met Lab, the CIP seeks to integrate class material with project work, industrial applications with academic research, and undergraduate with graduate students. Proper integration of these elements should produce engineers who are better educated, better trained and more motivated for continuous learning. Participants should also become better communicators, team players, and leaders. The CIP should create an educational experience that is substantially more relevant to industrial needs, engrossing for the students and intellectually enriching for the students, faculty, and collaborating industry.

The CIP leverages the value of existing elements of technical education through their evolution and creative integration. The most important evolution will be to extend the kind of project work normally reserved for a senior thesis (or Major Qualifying Project, MQP, as it is called at WPI), so that undergraduates can begin engineering projects their first year and continue through their fourth year. Through the continuous integration of their course and project work, the students will have practical application of what is presented in the classroom and recognize a common thread that ties the intellectual components of the undergraduate experience together.

Teams will be formed to work on specific engineering research projects. The projects are proposed and selected with the Surf Met Lab partners on the steering committee. The teams will be made up of all levels of undergraduate and graduate students, advised by engineers from industry and professors. Integrating all levels of students will promote the formation of hierarchies based on experience and intellectual ability on the project teams. The hierarchies will provide the students with enhanced teamwork and leadership experiences in an engineering project environment.

Through partnership with the Surf Met Lab, industry can support the CIP. Industry contributions of money, equipment, and engineering time are necessary for the success of the CIP in the Surf Met Lab. Experience shows that graduate students are essential to the CIP. eaching and other academic responsibilities and scholarly activities do not leave professors the time or flexibility to thoroughly manage the hour-to-hour activities in the lab The graduate students can more effectively organize the participation of the undergraduate students. The graduate students can also provide important one-on-one instruction for using the lab equipment and software at more times when it is convenient for the undergraduates. Funds from industry will be used for grad student stipends, equipment, maintenance, lab operating expenses, and supplies.

Anyone wishing to support the CIP and join the laboratory should see the information provided on the membership page or contact the Surface Metrology Laboratory director, Chris Brown, directly at brown@wpi.edu or at the following:

Prof. Christopher Brown
Surface Metrology Laboratory
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
100 Institute Rd.
Worcester, MA 01609-2280
Phone: +1-508-831-5627
Fax: +1-508-831-5178
Home office phone and fax: +1-802-649-1399
Cell phone: +1-508-560-6986

For more on a student's perspective of the Continuous Integration Program please see the CIP Project page.

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Last modified: September 11, 2007 15:20:53