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Keeps Getting Better By Glenn Cook

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s Ryan Novak looks ahead to graduation, the Computer Science major points to a six-hour, twosemester course as one of the best opportunities he’s had during his college years.

The students, who started working on the project last fall, presented their design proposal to a Harris liaison in December and will complete their work on the project in May.

A transfer student from Utah Valley University, Novak had one internship under his belt when he joined the Bulls Engineering Success Training (BEST) program last fall. The program is designed to provide selected undergraduates with an interdisciplinary, industry-based capstone design experience.

“It’s been a really good fit,” Pyrtle says of the working relationship with Harris. “Their corporate representatives understand the academic process, and the constraints on time that our students have. They’ve really been focused on the students getting the design experience they need rather than actually meeting all of the design requirements for the product.”

“I was looking for an opportunity to do internshipstyle work so that my resume would be more than just academic,” says Novak, who worked with Syniverse, a telecommunications enabler based in Tampa. “I’ve gained a lot from BEST. The time I spent was worth its weight in gold.”

Miguel Labrador, a Computer Science and Engineering professor and the faculty supervisor on Novak’s project at

Ken Christensen, a USF Computer Science and Engineering professor who coordinates the BEST program, says the program’s focus is not on research, but on “real world experiential learning.” What makes it different from traditional internships is that the students are supervised by a College of Engineering faculty member and mentored by the industry partners, who fund each project at a level of $25,000. “BEST and the internships you typically hear about are different but related,” Christensen says. “This really is a student training program. We hope it provides useful work for the companies; it is designed to have an end product and an end result. That’s not always the case in an internship.”

Harris Corp Project Frank Pyrtle, a Mechanical Engineering instructor whose specialties are thermal management and heat transfer, is serving as the advisor for six Mechanical Engineering students on a BEST project with Harris Corp., a telecommunications equipment company in Brevard County on Florida’s east coast. The students are working on a passive thermal switch, which can help control the temperature of electronics without thermostats or heaters.

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Passive Thermal Switch Design Syniverse, says the BEST program is a “win-win situation for all of the entities involved.” “The way I look at it, there are three entities — the company, the students and the faculty,” Labrador says. “From the business side, they get to know our students for recruiting purposes and also have a problem in the company solved to a certain extent. The students get really good, practical experience because they are exposed to

USF Envision Magazine Spring 2015  
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