Student Leaders of Tomorrow Solving Problems Today
Seattle University’s location in the heart of a booming city provides the unique opportunity to partner with leading businesses on real-world projects for engineering and computer science students. As they learn from these companies and their employees, our students prepare for successful careers after graduation.
One example of such a partnership is through the Seattle University College of Science and Engineering Project Center. Small teams of engineering and computer science students are partnered with industry sponsors and mentored by Seattle University faculty to provide solutions to real-world problems. Over the course of the academic year, student teams are responsible for almost everything expected from a professional consultant, including project management, budgeting and scheduling. The students collectively work 1000 hours to design and deliver their prototype, software application or proof of concept. Projects Day, coming up next month, is the culminating event of this year-long experience for the students. At this event, student teams present their work to the public, their sponsors and fellow classmates.
We spoke with Chris Payne, a 2000 mechanical engineering graduate and director of Boeing’s Airplane Systems Team, to learn what it means to sponsor a project and why he’s stayed involved with Seattle University. Projects Day is nothing new for Chris, who has been a member of the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board since 2008. He has attended and participated in Projects Day for many years.
(Chris Payne and his team aboard a Boeing aircraft.)
“Before I was on the board I would come out to Project Day to see the projects. It’s a fun opportunity to meet the students, ask them questions about their work and hand out business cards.”
As a project sponsor, Chris assigns a manager from his team to act as a liaison between Boeing and the Seattle University students on the project. Chris works with that manager to ensure the team gets the support they need and to ensure that he stays informed on the direction the project is headed.
The project Chris is sponsoring this year is focused on improving the windshield wiper motor for commercial airplanes. A great opportunity for students, if they develop a viable option is will be put into production. “It’s a great opportunity to get the students involved. They’ve come out here to tour the airplane and learn about the issues we are up against.” Chris went on to explain that while a windshield wiper motor may not seem exciting, they are unreliable and when not working properly, damage a plane’s windshield, resulting in costly repairs and delays.
“I value working with the Project Center and the students because of the opportunity to shape the learning of the students who are about to enter the workforce, and help them connect the dots between their education and a real-world problem,” Chris says.
Chris encourages fellow alumni to attend Projects Day saying, “You have to come meet the students and see their capabilities and skills and the passion that the students have developed. You’ll also see what these students are going to bring to industry. They aren’t just solving a paper exercise. They have tackled real-world problems and have been thoughtful about how to bring them to market.”
Interested to see how Chris’s team tackled the problem of the windshield wiper motor? Come see for yourself during Projects Day on June 8th.