What the Heck is IPRO?
At the Illinois Institute of Technology, we have a program called “IPRO.” It stands for Interprofessional Projects Program. Each undergraduate student at IIT is required to take two IPRO experiences (3 credit hours each) as part of our general education requirement. There are two different pathways that students can take to fulfill the IPRO requirement. The first pathway is for students to take IPRO 397 and then follow that with IPRO 497. The second is for students to take two IPRO 497 experiences. Currently it is up to the individual student to decide which pathway he or she wants to travel. In this entry, I would like to spend some time explaining the difference between the two experiences.
The course IPRO 397 is a relatively new IPRO experience that we started in the fall of 2010. Imagine yourself in a class that starts out with 50 students and a team of five instructors. The students come from all majors across campus, from all of the five colleges that have undergraduate programs at IIT (Engineering, Business, Science, Psychology, Applied Technology, and Architecture). The team of instructors is composed of faculty members from IIT’s School of Design, Business, Psychology and Engineering. In a nutshell, the class begins with a series of important problems that are pitched to the student group. Problems can be generated internally by students and faculty, as well as come from outside companies and organizations. During the “pitch” process, student teams of about 10 are formed. Students are exposed to important leadership concepts such as team organization and dynamics. They are exposed to important business and law concepts such as opportunity assessment and protection of intellectual property, and also ethics. Once student teams are formed and problems are chosen, student teams spend the rest of the semester working on solving the problem, or bringing their concept to life. Once students complete IPRO 397, they are encouraged to stick with their team formed in IPRO 397 and take their problem to the next level by working for one additional semester in IPRO 497.
In IPRO 497, teams of ten to twelve students work with a faculty mentor in a less structured environment as a single team working on a problem for one semester. Students sign up for IPRO 497 during the usual registration periods that occur in November and April of each year. One of the great things about IPRO 497 is that student teams actually receive budgets averaging $1,000 per semester (real money!) to help them bring their ideas to reality and really showcase their work in the best light possible.
The home of the IPRO Program is a new facility that we call the Idea Shop. The Idea Shop is composed of 13,000 square feet of bright, flexible, and casual space that is designed for collaboration and inspiration. The Idea Shop has a rapid-prototyping lab equipped with 3D printers, CNC routers, a CO2 laser cutter, a vacuum forming machine and more. The Idea Shop also has storage and nesting spaces for student project work, and it has a large teaming area where technology abounds, enabling our students to collaborate better, faster, and at a deeper level.
At the end of each semester, both the 397 and 497 pathways end at IPRO Day. IPRO Day is a big event in which over 400 students participate. During the event, student IPRO teams exhibit their work. Exhibits typically include posters, video, actual prototypes–anything that helps the team tell their story to the judges. Judges are composed of professionals from industry, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the program. In addition to the student exhibits, students make formal presentations to a panel of judges. At the end of the day, the judges tally up their scores using Apple iPads, and the day ends with an action-packed awards ceremony.
The award ceremony kicks off with IIT Provost Alan Cramb addressing the crowd. After that, the student project team winners are announced, and the now infamous IPRO medals are awarded to the students of the winning teams. Near the end of the ceremony we hold an IPRO video competition. In the video competition, IPRO teams submit their entries before IPRO Day. The video collection is narrowed down to the top three by our Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Jeannie Hartig. The three top videos are played for the audience, and the audience chooses the winning video (in real time) by texting. You can check out my favorite video from summer 2012 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzKV9aIvql8&NR=1&feature=endscreen.
Help me make this one go viral!
Well, I think that is enough on IPRO for now. If you would like to learn more about the IPRO, I encourage you to visit our website at ipro.iit.edu. To learn more about the Idea Shop, we have a quarterly magazine that can be downloaded for free at www.magcloud.com/browse/magazine/131744, or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ideashop.iit.
I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas on IPRO and the Idea Shop!
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs