The European Global Product Realisation (EGPR) course is an academic virtual enterprise, consisting of different universities and one industrial partner.
Academic instructors, students and company specialists are all involved in EGPR over the course of one study semester. The primary goals of the enterprise are to gain professional and communication knowledge and to solve a practical problem set by the partner company.
Those involved in the EGPR course are brought together by advanced communication means, where videoconferencing is considered as the key communication tool.
Students gradually gain knowledge by attending lectures, given by renowned professors and other experts and professionals. International student teams are formed, bringing together knowledge from different fields to try to solve the problems set in the assignment. The teams then present their research work during group sessions. At the end of the semester, students develop physical prototypes.
Everyone involved in the EGPR course attends a closing workshop in the country of the industrial partner and host institution at the end of the semester, where all components will be assembled together and the research work publicly presented and evaluated.
Goals of the course
The goals of the project as a whole may be classified into four distinctive categories.
To gain additional professional knowledge
The first is to gain additional professional knowledge in the fields of industrial design, mechanical engineering design, electronics, fluid mechanics and agricultural machinery.
This goal will be partially achieved by organising the appropriate lectures, given by specialists in the field and partially by students performing autonomous research by studying the available literature and other public sources of information (e.g. internet).
To acquire communication skills
Students will learn to use communication equipment autonomously. They will share messages with other team members simultaneously, keeping all involved partners informed.
They will organise presentations and present their work publicly to other groups, instructors, and industrial specialists and users. Individual ideas will have to be presented to other team members over a long geographical distance, using the available communication media (videoconference equipment, documents and messages sent by email, chat sessions, etc.).
To acquire teamwork skills
Students will be organised into groups and will try to define the list of activities, necessary for completion of the assignment. They will develop the skills to formulate a concept by starting from scratch.
They will organise brainstorming sessions to express and discuss the ideas and to evaluate them. Because students come from different institutions, they will bring together different knowledge and experience. It is therefore expected that multiple aspects of the concept will be thoroughly considered. Students will share the individual tasks, which will be agreed upon in their team meetings.
Students will learn to overcome the cultural and cognitive differences between the fellow team members. Each team's work will be presented publicly to other groups and the instructors.
To materialise the concept
The industrial partner expects the elaboration of the chosen concept in the form of a working physical prototype. In order to achieve this, the project work has to be carefully planed and the milestones met at prescribed deadlines.
The students will use local workshop facilities to materialise the components or purchase standard parts (components). The final product will be assembled during the workshop at the host institution.
Philosophy of the project
The basic philosophy of the EGPR educational project is the development of competence to solve problems by design. This requires the development of five specific capacities.
The EGPR course provides an overview of these capacities. A full development of sound design competence can only be reached after wide education and years of practical experience. The current course uses international and multidisciplinary cooperation to develop such competence.
The design capability, or the natural capacities, includes intelligence, imagination, creativeness, inventiveness, artfulness, technicality, pragmatism and productiveness. A good designer has developed, strengthened and balanced these capacities. Since the available time for the course is limited we concentrate on:
- optimal exploitation of the already available capacities
- harmonisation of the various problem solving approaches
- organisation/management capacities of the students.
The design attitude, or the way a designer is related to their profession, includes the designer's way of seeing, thinking and doing, which is manifest in:
- the way of thinking about practical creativeness
- the motivation and inspiration of creating useful things
- the enjoyment of inventing artefacts
- the mindset related to materialisation and realisation.
Working in virtual environments points to other specific elements of the designerly attitude, for example:
- liking problem-solving with a multidisciplinary flavour
- openness to sharing problems, knowledge and resources
- feeling responsibility towards others
- being accustomed to working in a multicultural environment.
The design knowledge, or the integration and application of multidisciplinary knowledge of the learned capabilities, includes formal and informal understanding and information. In design education, we pay attention to systematically obtaining, exploring, managing and applying knowledge. During the course, several sources of obtaining knowledge will be addressed:
- academic lectures
- industrial case studies
- exploratory research
- literature search
- learning from each other
- company visits
Design skills, or the abilities to carry out design actions well. They include (amongst others):
- handling information
- multidisciplinary cooperation
- application of research and design methods
- communication and exchange of technical information
- use of professional, internet-based communication equipment
- analysis of complex design problems and task allocation
- combining creative capacities with system development capacities
- project management
- prototyping and testing
- practising English language at a professional level.
Design experience, or the familiarity gained from seeing and doing things in the course of acting as a designer, and the obtained feelings and reflections related to designing and designs.
Students come together with their own backgrounds and fields of experience, they share and combine this to create new experiences as a result of the synthesis of experiences. We think that the concept of the Academic Virtual Enterprise forms an excellent means that enables students to develop these competences.