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Businesses Benefit from DesignSpine


Written by Addison Campbell

Engineering students apply their design, development, and problem-solving skills to Indianapolis business projects. 

What do Carrier, Endress-Hauser, GE Booth, Fastenal, Milwaukee Tool, Citizen Energy, The Institute for Affordable Transportation, and Easter Seals have in common? 

They all benefited from design, development, and problem-solving skills of UIndy engineering students through the university’s DesignSpine curriculum. The DesignSpine curriculum, launched in 2017 with the creation of UIndy’s R. B. Annis School of Engineering, provides a framework that equips students with technical and professional skills as well as an entrepreneurial mindset, which are in high demand in industry. Impressed with the students’ results, many of the businesses hire those same students as full-time employees after graduation. 

“A common theme among business leaders is that young engineers require a proclivity to adapt to novel technologies and prepare for jobs or even entire industries that do not yet exist,” explained Kenneth Reid, associate dean of the R. B. Annis School of Engineering. “The DesignSpine curriculum involves project-based learning that equips students to effectively design viable solutions to real-life problems. These projects benefit both the organizations that provide them as well as the students.”

In addition to defining the problem and designing a solution, students are tasked with working in interdisciplinary teams, budgeting, prototyping, and presenting to their clients. To guide them, all engineering faculty serve as consultants.

“It’s our students who are ultimately responsible to find a solution and develop a prototype for our partner businesses,” noted Reid. “In their third year, they use entrepreneurial skills to develop a product. Our students excel with the professional skills other universities struggle to build into their plans of study, such as communication, effective teamwork, project management.”

One such product the students created was a water wagon for Citizens Energy that enables people to refill water bottles at water stations to reduce plastic bottle waste,” said Reid,.  “The system was portable (in a trailer) and worked so well that Citizens deployed it to hospitals out of state during times of natural disaster.”

After graduating from UIndy, many students go to work for their DesignSpine clients. Employers include Milwaukee Tool, Cummins, Rolls Royce, GE Booth, GM, Northrop Grumman, and Roche, among others.