Course Provides Students with Resources to Develop Projects and Translate Them to Industry

Achievement date: 
2016
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Students can apply engineering principles from coursework to independent projects, and explore the potential translation of these projects to industry in a new course at the University of Washington (UW) facilitated by the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) with headquarters at UW.

Impact/benefits: 

Called Neural Engineering Tech Studio, the course allows students to focus on creating a working product that can be presented to a panel of judges by the end of the class. After being sorted into teams and tasked with developing a product to address a current neural engineering problem, students learned how to engage with industry, identify a target population while anticipating ethical considerations, and sell their idea to a panel of judges.

Explanation/Background: 

Although students had a lot of freedom over their project idea and how they used their time, the course incorporated structured mentorship and other sources of support. Guest speakers or lectures during class time focused on related information or skills such as pitching and presenting, or methods for quantitative analysis of neural-based data.

Traditional engineering classes provide advice about when to use certain code or algorithms in the context of the course, but they don’t focus on independent problem solving. This class offered resources and mentorship aimed at building on creative ideas that students already have—they might just lack the necessary technology, mentorship, or funding to pursue an independent engineering project. The CSNE helped bridge this gap by providing high-quality equipment, development money, access to the Center’s workspace with 3-D printers and equipment for neural recording, and opportunities to interact with industry representatives.