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The Vertically-Integrated Projects (VIP) Program – Leveraging Faculty Research Interests to Transform Undergraduate STEM Education

E. J. Coyle
J. V. Krogmeier
R. T. Abler
A. Johnson
S. Marshall
B. E. Gilchrist
The Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program is an education program that operates in a research and development context. Undergraduate students that join VIP teams earn academic credit for their participation in discovery and design efforts that assist faculty and graduate students with research and development issues in their areas of technical expertise. The teams are:

multidisciplinary–drawing students from across campus;
vertically integrated – maintaining a mix of sophomores through PhD students each semester; and
long-term– each undergraduate student may participate in a project for up to three years.

The continuity, technical depth, and disciplinary breadth of these teams enable the completion of projects of significant benefit to faculty members’ research programs.
We compare the implementations and success of VIP Programs at five different institutions by a variety of criteria, including: origin and type of implementation strategy; number of disciplines involved; type of institution; implementation in the curriculum; resources and support available; growth of the program; grading/assessment strategy and tools; relationship with other design programs; software tools for program administration; number of students and faculty involved; etc. While programmatic variations and support have a marked effect on the success of VIP at each institution, its implementation in the curriculum and the ease of scheduling and timetabling teams stand out as two of the most important issues for every VIP site. The common slow pace of curricular change and the variability of curricular implementations across disciplines and institutions, are two of the key issues being addressed by the VIP Consortium that has recently been formed. It will enable the development and sharing of ideas, processes, and software tools for improving, growing and evaluating VIP Programs at all Consortium sites. Its overall goal is systemic reform of STEM Education.
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