Companies Find Solutions to Challenges and Talent in Partnerships

Is your organization facing an engineering challenge? Let a team of innovative senior engineering students take it on. Companies that partner with the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) get access to expert faculty, state of the-art-labs and creative student engineers. That’s what Wahl Clipper Corporation of Sterling, Illinois found when they partnered with a Senior Design Team.

The Senior Design Program is a senior-level course sequence where students apply what they’ve learned throughout their past semesters to solve problems, improve processes and/or create new products.

One team was led by David Todd, research and development electronics engineer and Matt Bowers, senior electronics engineer and test lab manager for Wahl, which manufactures hair clippers, trimmers, and shavers for consumers and professional barbers and stylists.

“We wanted to understand how our products are used so we can engineer better products,” said Bowers.

The challenge was to collect information while the products are in use. The team developed a circuit board that sends data to an app on the user’s smartphone such as the temperature of the clipper, length of time used and the number of times it is turned on. The boards will be field tested with Wahl-sponsored stylists.

“This is a great example of how industry professionals can engage students in a meaningful experience by bringing a practical application that ultimately culminates in a solution for the company,” said CEET Dean Donald Peterson.

Companies select and work with a team of senior engineering students, a graduate assistant and a faculty advisor. The intellectual property and prototypes that the team creates is retained by the company.

When asked about the benefits of such a partnership, Bowers said there are many, with the greatest being finding a solution to a challenge without dedicating resources.

Additionally, Wahl recruited an engineer from their Senior Design Team who will be attending NIU graduate school in the fall. He will intern with Wahl and will be the Wahl liaison for next year’s Senior Design Team.

“We are always seeking mutually beneficial partnerships with companies,” said Peterson. “We combine our expertise in engineering fields to improve productivity and profitability while providing our students with real-world learning experiences and preparing them for the engineering workforce.”

Interested companies may contact Director of Outreach Gary Smith at gsmith8@niu.edu or 815-753-1690 or visit niu.edu/ceet.

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