Beginning in 2009 Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) courses have been implemented at Georgia Tech. These VIP classes allow undergraduate students to receive academic credit for participating on teams that further faculty research efforts. The teams are: multidisciplinary, vertically-integrated, and long-term. Participation on these teams has been shown to help students gain understanding of project timelines, effective project communication, and other applicable real-world experience.
EcoCAR 3 is the latest in a series of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) sponsored by the Department of Energy since 1988. At Georgia Tech, the EcoCAR 3 team has been structured using the VIP program to improve the all-around experience of faculty members and the graduate and undergraduate students. Based on Georgia Tech’s experience in the first three years in EcoCAR 3, we have learned lessons that we are implementing on our team to improve the educational experience of the students working on the project. One of these lessons is the value of strong undergraduate leadership on competition teams and in project based learning. The benefits have included a more evenly distributed workload, increased mentorship of new undergraduate students, and improved team capability to successfully meet deadlines while still educating undergraduate team members.