Every aspect of the GIEL curriculum is grounded in real-world application, as is demonstrated by the significant emphasis placed on the Challenge Project.
Through this transformational experience in project-based learning, Candidates directly apply the concepts and techniques learned in the classroom to lead a project of significant value to their organizations. Unlike a traditional academic thesis that focuses on research, the Challenge Project focuses on product/process development and delivery with an emphasis on customers and stakeholders.
For industrial sponsors, the Challenge Project is the mechanism through which a product or process of value and impact is developed on behalf of the organization. For Candidates, it is the opportunity to expand their knowledge of a technical domain and develop self-confidence under real-world time, business, performance, and quality pressure.
“For my Challenge Project, I was tasked with the development of a low-cost laser radar (ladar) platform that would allow MIT Lincoln Laboratory to exploit certain technologies to their fullest potential. Completing this Challenge Project involved building a functional ladar system from a heterogeneous mix of spare parts, installing it on an airplane, performing test flights, and marketing the availability of this new capability. Once I had completed my Challenge Project, the system was used for data collection projects to serve sponsors’ needs in a way that was previously impossible.”
While Candidates pursue a very broad range of Challenge Projects, they must all meet three primary academic requirements:
- Market Value. The project must be able to identify an opportunity with quantifiable value to the sponsoring organization in terms of meeting or satisfying a market and customer needs. Each project may have unique descriptions of the market or customer, including internal customers, but they must be identified and understood.
- Technology/Scientific/Engineering depth. The project must challenge the candidate in the engineering domain, where a novel, innovative, or unique knowledge and skills are learned and exercised.
- Leadership. The project must represent something that is a true challenge, with clear stretch, importance, and opportunity to establish and refine leadership skills.
During the program, Candidates transition from an initial plan to a complete project proposal, including schedule, cost estimates, technology strategy, and anticipated value to the sponsoring company.
Upon completion, Candidates write a formal, thesis equivalent report that describes the project, results, and final status. They also present a defense of the project for final approval by a faculty committee.