Looking back on the past few years of teaching, one of the things that I am most proud of is the number of unusual collaborations that we have organized for our students. I strongly believe that engineering students benefit when they get a chance to apply their new knowledge and skills to real world. In the past two years, my classes have collaborated with a circus school (for dynamics lab), with a daycare center (for a product design class focusing on toys) and with various agencies for older adults (for a seminar on designing products for older adults.) I'll try to post soon about the lessons that I've learned from all of these collaborations.
After the circus collaboration, we were contacted by the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts about whether my freshmen level design students ("Engineering Graphics and Design") would be interested in participating in their Campus Connections program. Through this program, the class was given a chance to work with the renowned dance troupe, Diavolo. Over the course of a semester, the engineering students designed set pieces that could be used by a dance group from Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas that was training with Diavolo. Given that the students in the design class were freshmen, and most had not had Physics yet, the project was much more of a concept design project then an engineering design project. However, giving students the chance to work with real clients was a great experience.
The design created by student Thomas Flake was chosen by representatives from Diavolo and the student dancers to be built and have a dance choreographed around it. The final piece was so successful that Diavolo may be incorporating it into their own traveling repertoire. To see the final dance and design, watch this video.
Note that I will be presenting a paper on the details of this collaboration at the ASEE Regional Conference in October. If you'd like a copy of it, please let me know!