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Experiential Learning

Engineering Experiential Learning at UC Merced

When it comes to engineering, there’s nothing like hands-on experience. There's also nothing like applying your engineering skills towards practical solutions in the interest of your community and beyond.

UC Merced’s School of Engineering offers students myriad opportunities for service-inspired experiential education, including our flagship event, the Innovate to Grow competition and expo.  

Innovation Design Clinic (IDC) | Capstone Projects

The Innovation Design Clinic (IDC) provides senior undergraduate students opportunities to learn in teams that include practicing engineers and other professionals from partner organizations, while satisfying their degree requirements for a capstone experience. 

The IDC teams focus on engineering design projects chosen based on their potential for significant near-term effects on communities, organizations and/or industries in the region. The program integrates students from the entrepreneurship course in the Gallo Management Program to infuse an economic development mindset in the context of global market potential. The commitment of the teams and partners, combined with the richness and intensity of the Innovate to Grow competition, greatly enhances the traditional capstone experience.

Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning

Academic courses that can be taken in the first year and applied toward a degree are supported by The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning. The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning supports UC Merced faculty members as they mentor students through their experiential learning. Mentorship provides students steady guides and role models as they prepare for their futures, including finding ways to serve others with their talents and knowledge.

Through the center, students work with nonprofit community partner organizations that have specific business challenges. The center brings together students from all grade levels and disciplines to design compelling solutions that address their community partners’ needs. Students gain valuable experience through projects that have lasting and practical conclusions, while the community partners get much-needed technical solutions tailored to their individual needs.

The center, with its affiliated PG&E Engineering Service Learning Laboratory, is where student teams establish ongoing professional relationships with community partners, interacting closely with them to fully understand each partner's challenges and needs.

Each team works as a cohesive group, with each student contributing his or her own part to design an innovative solution. Students learn how to delineate project objectives, formulate work plans, implement solutions and monitor and assess their project’s effectiveness.

The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning was created to be a premier research and training environment for the Engineering Service Learning courses. The center and the PG&E lab give the students room to meet and collaborate with faculty advisors and community partners and study, innovate and develop prototype solutions. The generous support of the Foster Family and PG&E make all this possible.

As members of UC Merced's co-curricular organizations, students also learn in a less formal setting as they perform thousands of hours of service each year. All these programs are designed specifically to help students work with real community partners to solve real challenges using what they are learning in their engineering courses.

Our unique approach gives students the opportunity to practice functioning in their chosen professions while still in an academic setting.

Imagine how that experience will affect their future careers!