EPICS: Engineering Projects in Community Service

Purdue's EPICS program, a nationally acclaimed initiative now in its 12th year, puts multidisciplinary teams of students to work, for academic credit, on the technological needs of local community service agencies, schools, and other nonprofits.

Undergraduates from 30 different departments within and beyond Purdue's College of Engineering form teams of eight to 20 students to research, design, prototype, and implement engineering solutions.

Purdue EPICS enrolls more than 500 undergraduates each year; teams have already delivered more than 200 projects to their community partners. All projects fall into one of four categories: human services, access and abilities, education and outreach, and the environment.

The national program, headquartered at Purdue, operates at 18 universities all over the country (including Puerto Rico) and in New Zealand. Today, peer teams at multiple EPICS sites are collaborating to address community needs on the national level. A growing international interest in EPICS provides opportunities for EPICS students to address local community needs in their own native countries as well as collaborating on projects across universities and even participating in student exchanges that provide global service-learning experiences. The 2006-07 year alone saw some 1,500 students delivering more than 300 projects across the EPICS programs.

Building on EPICS' overwhelming success, Purdue and partnering EPICS universities are reaching out to create a high school model called EPICS High, which launched this past spring in 28 schools across five states. "I wasn't thinking of engineering at all but wanted to do the project," says one Bedford (Indiana) North Lawrence High School girl who's participated in the program. "After I got into it, I found electrical engineering fun."

—Rebecca Goldenberg