Senior Engineering Program

In the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, the Senior Engineering Project (SE 494) is the capstone experience for undergraduates.

Teams composed of three to four students and a faculty advisor solve real-world problems submitted by industry partners, who not only fund the projects, but also work closely with each team. In this remarkable collaboration of education and industry, students take the lead on the research.

The results are documented in a final written report and a formal presentation to the company; either the students solve the problem the company gives them or demonstrate that it cannot be solved. Many teams have seen their solutions implemented, increasing productivity and profitability at the sponsoring companies.

Our Senior Engineering Project Laboratory simulates the working environment and resources a young engineer would find in a corporate engineering environment.

First implemented at Illinois in 1961, emulated by other universities and now a standard practice across all accredited engineering schools, the Senior Engineering Project is part of the legacy of the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering at Illinois. Our Senior Engineering Project class was used to set national accreditation standards for all Senior Engineering Project management courses.

The Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering continues to attract real projects from large and small companies, which have included McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, Dow Agrosciences, Monsanto, and General Electric. Illinois Senior Engineering Projects continue to win many awards, including Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation Awards.

The Senior Engineering Project is where students put it all together—knowledge, skills, creativity; and abilities to lead, contribute as an individual, and work as a team. The value to our students of organizing, executing, and completing a real-world engineering project for an established company is extraordinary, and makes our graduates attractive to employers.

Companies We've Worked With

The hundreds of companies we've successfully helped include

  • Anheuser-Busch Inbev
  • Caterpillar
  • Cermak Health Service of Cook County
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • General Dynamics
  • General Electric
  • John Deere
  • Life Fitness
  • McDonnell Douglas Aerospace
  • Monsanto
  • Motorola Advanced Technology Center
  • North American Lighting
  • NTN Bower
  • OSF Healthcare
  • Pregis Corporation
  • Thyssenkrupp

Industry Partners

Problems offered by the participating companies are real; each partnering company provides financial support and is vitally interested in the project outcome. This involvement makes the experience extremely valuable for our students.

Students have continuous interaction with the contact engineer(s) from the company and meet at least twice a week with the faculty advisor assigned to their project. This is a great opportunity to learn by example as the contact person and the faculty advisor engage the students in the problem-solving process. As the project progresses, its direction can change drastically; mid-course renegotiation of the problem statement is not at all uncommon.

The communication skills that make this program work are emphasized throughout the course. During the first week of the semester, students visit the partnering company to completely understand the problem statement, scope of work and deliverables, as well as the business process of the company. Oral presentations are given on-campus at 5 and 10 weeks, with an on-site, formal progress report/presentation at the company facility during week 11 or 12.  Four written reports are prepared by the students, including the final report detailing their findings, economic analyses, drawings, etc.  At semester's end, all participating companies attend the Final Symposium on campus, where the student teams give formal presentations of their results and recommendations. 

The time deadlines which are set by the length of the semester are typical of engineering in the real world. A feasible solution that is delivered in a timely manner is required. Students learn to create a problem statement and project plan that represents something they can deliver within a semester.

Students learn to use a variety of resources and are discouraged from "re-inventing the wheel." They are required to perform a thorough library search and to consult with faculty members throughout the university. The students' broad engineering education provides them with a solid foundation for understanding a variety of technical areas. Funding is made available to the student teams for travel, equipment, laboratory time and tests, software, prototyping, and other activities required by their projects.

Students learn to appreciate Systems Engineering and Design knowledge as the key to solving many current engineering problems in manufacturing and design. The tremendous variety of issues they face on their project gives them a chance to put their engineering education to work. During the periodic oral presentations, students have an opportunity to critique and contribute to the progress of the other projects underway during the semester.

Team work and group dynamics are an important part of the experience. Students learn to coordinate the activities of the individuals who compose the project team. No other university course is as effective in developing this vital skill for today's engineers. SE 494/495 requires a radical change from the solitary performance that is typically expected of engineering students.

The faculty members in Systems Engineering and Design have research interests and technical specializations that span the spectrum of engineering disciplines. The senior project course provides a regular opportunity for industrial interaction for the teaching faculty. As a result, there is a tremendous wealth of expertise and experience available to the student teams.

Take a look a our history of successes. The program in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering has an unusually high level of faculty involvement with project teams with highly focused, broadly capable students teams. Within this unique environment, we routinely accomplish the dual goals of educating our graduates and meeting the needs of our partnering companies and organizations.

If you have engineering projects that you think may be suitable for this program, do not hesitate to contact us.

Thomas A. Titone, PhD 
Senior Director of Project Design Activity

Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering 
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Transportation Building
104 South Mathews Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801
Cell (217) 971-9827
Skype (217) 265-8428