The SMU Skunk Works® Program better prepares engineering students for the challenges which face our society. Through research in engineering education and innovation, SMU/ Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® provides a world class educational experience for engineering students.
Southern Methodist University has partnered with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® to develop a program that emphasizes innovation while challenging students to excel. The SMU Skunk Works® Program combines traditional forms of learning, such as lectures and seminars, with high pressure design challenges that will require innovative solutions. There are four main components for the SMU Skunk Works® Program: the Immersion Design Experiences, the Skunk Works® Lecture Series, the Freshman Introduction to Innovation Curriculum, and a Visiting Professor in Innovation.
Immersion Design Experiences
The most ambitious component of the SMU Skunk Works® Program is the Immersion Design Experiences (IDE). IDEs present small teams of students with a real world problem that must be solved in only 10 days. Teams are required to design, fabricate, build, and test a prototype that solves their assigned problem, and then present their solution to a panel of faculty and industry. During the 10 days of an IDE students work an average of 18 hours a day. Due to the high intensity workload which prohibits students from being in classes during an IDE, IDEs run during the breaks in the academic calendar. IDEs typically occur at the end of summer, winter break, spring break and at the beginning of summer. Students give up nearly two weeks of vacation to work on challenging projects for the experience and resume building potential.
Skunk Works® Lecture Series
Utilization of industry experience is a key feature of the SMU Skunk Works® Program. In order to continually maintain an influx of new ideas, a number leaders in innovation give lectures at SMU as part of the program. A wide spectrum of industries are represented through these lectures including the military, medical devices, and home audio. These lectures are open to all of SMU and have been major events for the student body. The lectures are videotaped and posted on the Internet.
Freshman Introduction to Innovation Curriculum
To involve students from all stages of their academic career we have developed a curriculum module on innovation targeted to freshman engineering students. All students in the Lyle School of Engineering who have declared an engineering major go through a semester long introductory course during their freshman year. The Director of the Innovation Gymnasium works with departmental faculty to teach roughly four days during these courses focusing on innovation. The topics of the module include a history of various centers of innovation across multiple industries, case studies of innovative products, and the importance training creativity as well as analytic skills for innovative engineering. Special attention is paid to the business cultures that encourage innovation and have allowed a history of innovation to occur.
Visiting Professor of Innovation
In order to share the concepts/curriculum/projects with other schools, the SMU Skunk Works Program will host a visiting professor position. Interested faculty will come for a full semester to participate in the activities surrounding the SMU Skunk Works Program including its incorporation in the freshman classes, the immersive projects, and the Lecture Series. This will allow them to then take the concepts back to their university, and immediately begin sharing the results. The Skunk Works® program will also benefit by combining best practices from many schools.