Goals of an EPICS Program
In addition to the core values, there are attributes of EPICS Programs that provide a richer learning experience and add value to community partnerships. While it's understood that not all EPICS Programs will initially achieve these goals, EPICS Programs should recognize the value of the goals and continue to work to integrate them into their programs as appropriate for their own institution.
- Long-term Participation by Students: Students can participate in EPICS for more than a single academic period (e.g. semester or quarter). Long-term participation on a design team provides students the opportunity to perform many roles and learn a variety of technical and project skills, including teamwork, leadership, system design, and project management. The long-term participation provides students with the opportunity to experience the entire life-cycle of their team's projects and creates an ongoing context for their academic and professional growth. The credit structure within EPICS should encourage participation in a team for a year or longer if possible.
- Large Team Structure and Continuity: A large team size (8-20) is strongly recommended. When combined with the long-term participation of students, it provides significant continuity in team membership from one academic period to the next and can help maintain partnerships over several years. As the seniors on a team graduate, they are replaced with new students and the team continues on. This structure thus provides (i) familiar contacts on the team each semester for the project partner; (ii) the continuity and expertise necessary to complete and deliver large-scale projects of significant benefit to the community, and (iii) the ability of the team to manage multiple projects (e.g. short term and long-term projects) for their community partner.
- Multidisciplinary Teams: The kinds of needs that are addressed by EPICS projects usually require expertise from multiple disciplines to ensure the best possible outcomes for both the project partner and the students. When EPICS teams are comprised of students from across campus, the large team size and team continuity described above enable these multidisciplinary teams to meld and thus operate effectively. The EPICS Program should provide scaffolding to enable the teams to be intentional about establishing a proper environment to allow the multidisciplinary teaming to succeed. Each student contributes knowledge and expertise from his or her discipline while learning the importance of the knowledge and expertise of other disciplines.
- Advisors for teams: Each EPICS team should be mentored by a qualified advisor. Advisors can be faculty, professional staff from the campus or professionals from local industry. Ideally, the advisor has expertise in the technical areas that most closely matches a team's project(s). With the large and diverse teams within EPICS, one person may not have all the technical expertise a team requires but other consultants on campus or within the local community can fill these gaps. This model closely aligns with industry where the direct manager does not have all the expertise required by the individual designers. To support multidisciplinary teams, advisors may come from a wide variety of disciplines within and outside of engineering. In some cases, advisors can be paired as co-advisors to provide a broader perspective for the teams. The EPICS Program should provide development opportunities for the advisors and support for them to manage their teams effectively.
- Reflection on the Broader Social Context and Impact: EPICS programs should provide opportunities for students to develop a deeper understanding of the larger social issues and constructs that relate to the needs the team is addressing. These opportunities should involve intentional reflection opportunities for students and feedback from the advisors or others in the program. Issues that could be considered include applying disciplinary expertise to social or human issues, broader social issues including the context and impact of their projects, ethical implications within the project, their own place as future professionals and citizens in their community and their civic responsibility.
- Learning Design: EPICS programs should provide students the opportunities to apply their disciplinary expertise to the entire design process, from needs assessment to delivery and support of fielded projects. EPICS students should be given models for design that they can apply to their own projects. Intentional opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and progress within their design project should be included with the EPICS curriculum.
- Meeting the Needs of the Underserved: EPICS projects should address the needs of the underserved populations within their local community. New projects should be designed to strategically meet the needs of the underserved in partnerships with local community organizations when appropriate within the academic curricular constraints of the program.
- Vertically Integrated: The more experienced students are expected to be the team's leaders and to have primary technical and managerial responsibility. Their responsibilities include long-range planning, system design, solving technical problems, and training, monitoring, and directing the students who are newer to the team and/or less experienced (e.g. freshmen, sophomores).
- Integration into Core Curricula: EPICS courses should be included within the core curricula within participating departments. EPICS credits should count towards graduation and be able to be used in place of departmental courses either as part of departmental electives or as options for courses such as capstone design.
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship: EPICS students find solutions to compelling needs in their local communities. Typically, these needs are not unique to the local community. This provides opportunities for wider dissemination of the results which may include commercialization. EPICS programs should provide opportunities for students to explore dissemination opportunities as entrepreneurs, such as participating in the I2P competition. EPICS programs should also provide intentional learning experiences for students to learn about innovation techniques and to enhance their abilities.
- Collaboration with Other EPICS Programs: The EPICS Program provides a network of faculty, professionals, students, and corporate and community partners working to improve education and their local communities. Each EPICS site should collaborate with other institutions through the annual conferences, regional workshops, sharing of data and course materials and communicating with the other programs in the EPICS Program.