Not in Engineering?
The best EPICS teams have students from multiple disciplines, especially those outside of engineering. Although all projects seek technical solutions to community partners' problems, non-engineering EPICS students fill particularly important team functions not only by ensuring that community partners' needs are being addressed but also by bringing different insights and expertise to the program's mission, projects, and the clients served by the community partner. These students often fulfill central roles such as:
- Team Leader
- Expert in the field related to the mission of the team or of the population they serve (e.g., education, audiology, child development, sociology, history)
- Communication expert
- Project Partner liaison between team and project partner
- Evaluator of project from the project partner perspective
EPICS teams have benefited from having students from the rich diversity of multiple disciplines. These high functioning teams meet a variety of challenges with greater ease because differing views and academic preparation enables critical projects and their inherent tasks to be completed with higher quality, efficiency and effectiveness.
Determinating Project Parameters - It is important to have students involved in determining the project parameters who better understand the needs of the community partner, are familiar with the population for whom they serve, and are knowledgeable of related areas. Students from disciplines outside of engineering are able to question assumptions about project parameters and community partners' needs. They also supply insight into the ways that these partners think and conceive community needs because of students' subject matter expertise.
Making Design Decisions - As the design of the project develops, it is important to have members on the team who can understand how design decisions can impact the project and the intended use/benefit to the user. Differently prepared students are able to take a holistic view on the design process (i.e., problem setting through problem solving) in ways that consider technical and non-technical benefits and costs to project partners.
Providing the Project Partner Perspective - Students outside of engineering often provide sensitivity to and awareness of challenges faced by the community partner and the clients served.
Communicating with the Project Partner - Students outside of engineering are usually very effective in communicating with the team’s project partner (i.e., refined listening and speaking skills and can adapt oral and written messages to diverse audiences.)
Developing of User information - Non-engineers are helpful in assessing documents and instructions developed by the team from the viewpoints of project partners and other potential users.
Participating in Entrepreneurship Activities - Many students have entrepreneurial spirits and enjoy becoming involved in the development and implementation of new product and service ideas. Students in other disciplines often envision broad markets and contribute essential business and marketing skills.
Providing Team Leadership – Many students in multidisciplines possess great leadership skills that are needed for a team to be coherent and productive.
If you have a question or cannot find the information you need, please contact The EPICS Center at Purdue.