Today’s requirement of transdisciplinary collaboration necessitates that current students find ways to develop both hard and soft skills which they will need to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. This means that engineering students need more than just ‘in class time’. Started in the fall 1995 semester at Purdue University, EPICS, or Engineering Projects In Community Service, aims to fulfill this role as an extracurricular program. It takes current engineering students and matches them up with vetted individuals who represent nonprofits, community leaders and industries who have real world problems but who are not able to employ a full-fledged engineering consultation firm. Ranging from health services and technologies to education to water, and yes food, these groups are known as “community partners” to the students and serve to act as a client.
Tasked with helping their “community partner” means that the team not only has to engineer something that is human centered but in most cases, something that isn’t even widely available. Starting from problem statement all the way to prototypes and final product, the students work as an actual engineering group. This in turn leads to a mutual relationship, with the client gaining precious intellectual property to solve their problem and the students gaining experience, networking opportunities and projects which they can put their names to.
All students taking an EPICS class for the second semester, and up, must complete 10 hours of skill sessions and perform 2 Design Reviews per semester. Skill sessions further develop and hone both hard and soft skills which are then directly applicable into the engineering process of the final product. Design Reviews are meant to replicate the actual practice in industry, as the group is required to show up and present as if they were in front of their client. Currently there are EPICS programs at around 30 universities and colleges throughout the world and in 2006 EPICS what introduced to high school students in the creation of EPICS High. At around 50 schools, with multiple projects per school, the EPICS program is not only here to stay but is actually growing. Considering that some members working on the EPICSREAP project have been on the team since its creation in the fall of 2015 whilst taking 18 credit hours, it is worth mentioning that these students really do represent a dedicated group of individuals. More information about the general EPICS, ASU EPICS and EPICS High programs can be found their respective links below.