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EPICS - Purdue

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Overview

In order to respond to our Community Services needs and our undergraduate students future needs for solid expertise in their discipline, Purdue University has created EPICS: Engineering Projects In Community Service. EPICS is a unique program in which teams of undergraduates are designing, building, and deploying real systems to solve engineering-based problems for local community service and education organizations. EPICS was founded at Purdue University in Fall 1995.

The program begun in 1995 when their current Dean (Dr. Leah Jamieson) and Dr. Edward Coyle started EPICS. It has continued to expand to reach all majors on our campus.  It was project teams from the concept and has continued that way.  Each team has approximately 2-3 projects per team and is run by students. There is usually around 100 projects each year. A faculty instructor will oversee a division within EPICS.  It has been replicated at approximately 21 other universities.  

Purpose

The Purpose of EPICS is to offer Community services at the same time that they improve their Undergraduate students skills.

EPICS students gain long-term define-design-build-test-deploy-support experience, communication skills, experience on multidisciplinary teams, and leadership and project management skills. They gain an awareness of professional ethics, the role of the customer in engineering design, and the role that engineering can play in the community. Community organizations gain access to technology and expertise that would normally be prohibitively expensive, giving them the potential to improve their quality of service or to provide new services. In partnership with Purdue’s Discovery Park, the EPICS Entrepreneurship Initiative helps students and community partners explore entrepreneurship opportunities growing out of EPICS projects.

Distinct Differences From Other Offerings

  • Gain design experience of real systems
  • Develop teamwork & communication skills
  • Gain project planning & leadership experience
  • Develop customer-awareness
  • Gain understanding of ethical, economic, & legal issues
  • Get involved in the community
  • Have something to talk about in interviews!
  • Students receive (1-2) academic credits for participation
  • Projects that prepare you for a professional environment
  • Well-funded
  • Polish entrepreneurial ideas
  • Tool for students
  • No pre-requisites
  • Open to students of all majors
  • Elective course you can take for multiple semesters
  • Breaks the traditional classroom experience
  • Multidisciplinary design projects based on community needs
  • BE EPIC & MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Check out Purdue's EPICS website to learn more:

http://www.purdue.edu/epics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dInAkncBx4g&feature=youtu.be

Awards and Recognition

EPICS has received major awards from the Carnegie Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Society for Engineering Education, the IEEE Education Society, Campus Compact, the Corporate and Foundation Alliance, Purdue University, and the Governor and Legislature of Indiana. It was featured in the PBS series Communities Building Community. EPICS has been supported by over $5.1M in federal grants and over $5.5M in corporate and alumni gifts.

Impact Achieved For Students, Campus, and Community

Students

            EPICS considers itself part of “professional preparation” for students. Studies show that students who go through EPICS are more prepared for industry work. They are directly engaged with diverse groups of people (major, religion, race, etc.) working on real projects with real companies. Students are brought together to solve meaningful problems, such as working on an app for children with autism or habitat for humanity. EPICS is also shown to be particularly effective in helping and preparing minority students.

Campus

            The benefits of EPICS for a university are numerous. Students are more successful, it encourages retention, and the program is cost effective. Purdue in particular uses corporate sponsors to cover fees and provides good PR for the university. EPICS overall sees encouraging partnerships with the community and universities.

Community

            EPICS encourages partnerships instead of projects. Some projects for a partner will last several semesters and have many different students working on it. This method allows community partners to have more control over what they need help with and projects are often seen through to completion. Partners also have the ability to fire students. In this way EPICS is inclusive to community partners, gives them a voice, and provides real value. 

Steps Required To Bring Resource to Campus

NEEDS AND GOALS

Employers are looking for students that can work on diverse teams to solve real-world challenges. Companies don't have the time or resources to train good students into great professionals. How are students going to mature into leaders and problem-solvers with on theory based courses? Purdue's EPICS course allows students to develop their communication skills, face real-time work environment issues, and really help their community with their own discipline skills.

The benefits of having a program like EPICS are unimaginable. Students grow so much from practice and failure. The best way to become a better professional is to challenge yourself with a project that doesn't just end after the semester grades are put in the computer. Developing partnerships with local companies adds good public relationships for a university. Students can really see that they can actually helps others with their talents.


SUSTAINABILITY

If you want to establish a program like EPICS at your university, two of the most important stakeholders are faculty and your partnerships.

Look for faculty that are open to change to the traditional learning method of listening and learning. Ask faculty what types of projects they are interested in working. Discuss the value of better students that are one of the many results of a program like EPICS. 

Partnership are the local companies like Habit of Humanity that ask for students enrolled in the EPICS program to work on their projects. It's important for the members working on projects to empathize with the end-users of the project. This is multidisciplinary team project so be open to hearing other ideas to best serve your partnerships. Look at organizations that are already used to working with your university. Maintaining partnerships are vital to creating better projects that survive past a single semester. The community benefits from projects that are worked on by students that are committed to solving a problem they are passionate about making a difference.


LESSONS LEARNED AND TIPS FOR OTHER 

  • Be prepared to be surprised... Like in the real-world, unpredictable problems can arise.
  • The program needs committed and supportive students and faculty.
  • It might take time for students to accept that the skills learned in this program apply to the real world.
  • Find faculty that are open to change  
  • Don't be afraid to take risks
  • Have fun!
  • Collaboration is a must.
  • The benefits outweigh the costs. 

Contact Information

For information or general questions, please contact:

The EPICS Program at Purdue

Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering Room 1200
701 West Stadium Avenue
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045
Phone: 765-496-1068
Fax: 765-494-0052
Email: epics@purdue.edu