The Design Lab at Rensselaer is a sub-organization of Core Engineering that teaches multidisciplinary engineering design through hands-on projects. Nearly all undergraduate engineering and computer systems students complete their senior capstone course through a real-world project orchestrated by the Design Lab. As part of this capstone experience, student teams are matched with sponsors (external companies) with whom they complete a semester long engineering design project. Thoughout this experience the students are mentored, assisted, and managed by a group of faculty and staff. Each team is assigned a Chief Engineer (a faculty member, to serve as senior manager, gate keeper, and grader) as well as a Project Engineer (staff member or adjunct, to serve as a technical mentor, team advocate and supporter).
As a Project Engineer for the Design Lab, I defined the scope of the projects in concert with the sponsors, then managed the execution of those projects throughout the semester (and in some cases across multiple semesters with new groups of students each time). This required architecting the solutions and serving as a technical mentor to help the students execute on the projects' overarching goals. In addition to providing technical and team management guidance, I also maintained the relationship between the sponsor mentors and the students (in addition to typical weekly teleconferences). The students were then responsible for most of the "heavy lifting" related to engineering work.
Fabrication support was provided by a mix of RPI staff, internal and external shop services, and the students themselves, so while it was common for me to pick up a soldering iron or a wrench, to run a mill or lathe, set up networks and computers, etc., this was typically in a bootstrapping capacity to get the students started, at which point I was hands-off. Furthermore, the sponsor mentors within each sponsoring organization were both the final customers and were also responsible for guiding the projects from the corporate side. Finally, the Chief Engineers provided final go/no-go decisions and overarching guidance, so while I played a strong role in each of the projects described here, it was the student teams, faculty, staff, and sponsor mentors that deserve the bulk of the credit. These major contributors are listed on each of the project posters.