Senior Design Projects with Chalmers University

BME and Chalmers collaboration

Many tech companies and employers tell universities that they want to hire recent graduates who have experience working in groups and with people from other cultures. Since real-world engineering projects often involve groups of people collaborating virtually across different countries and time-zones, employers are interested in students who already have some experience doing this.

Students in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) recently had the chance to do just that. Two teams of students who were working on their capstone senior design projects were selected to participate in a unique collaboration with students in the entrepreneurship program at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology.  Here’s how it happened.

A year prior to this, SEAS student Konstantin Mitic and his team won a school-wide award for their senior design project. Having an entrepreneurial spirit, Konstantin and his teammates wanted to create a business for their product. However, after six months of working toward the goal, they realized that they had gone the wrong direction with their project in their senior design class, despite the fact that the design of their piece of equipment was good.

Konstantin subsequently was chosen to be an Innovation Fellow at the GW Innovation Center, and he decided to try to remedy that issue for other students by incorporating more entrepreneurship into the BME senior design course.

“So we decided to team up with a class from Chalmers University,” Konstantin explains. “The entrepreneurship program at Chalmers is good, and we brainstormed the idea of having a hybrid team [of SEAS and Chalmers students].”

The two teams met regularly throughout the fall and spring semesters, planning weekly virtual meetings and learning how to schedule them across time zones that are six hours apart.  The Chalmers students worked to develop a compelling business story and plan of execution for each of the two projects, while the SEAS students focused on device design.

Konstantin recalls, “The students realized that this was something different and they really went for it.”

Like the traditional senior design course itself, the collaboration with Chalmers University isn’t meant necessarily to launch new businesses, but to give students the experience of working on a project team—but in this instance they worked with partners around the world.

“The focus was mainly educational,” says Konstantin. “If we give students the skills now, then ten years from now they will have that foundation. They don’t necessarily need to start a business now.”

In the future, Konstantin and the Innovation Center hope to formalize the partnership and include capstone courses from other departments, giving more students the opportunity to participate in these collaborations.