May 31, 2017 | Atlanta
VIP might usually stand for “very important person.” But when it comes to the VIP Program at Georgia Tech, it means something else.
“The Vertically Integrated Projects — or VIP — Program isn’t looking to just engage students in research and in generating designs,” said Ed Coyle, a professor in Electrical Engineering and director of the program. “We’re looking for students from across Tech and from all levels to help further innovation.”
Currently, the program is accepting applications from graduate students and nonfreshmen undergraduates for fall of 2017.
Since the program began in 2009, it has brought together multidisciplinary teams of students that work on projects such as the EcoCAR Collegiate Competition Team and Agricultural Robotics Team. Teams range in size from five to more than 45 students.
“Some teams are formed to handle very focused projects, while others address a variety of tasks over their multiyear lifespan,” Coyle said. “The costs of a project are covered by the project’s advisor, with the VIP Program providing tools and resources that enable the smooth operation of all VIP teams. Students who join the program earn academic credit for and their grades are based upon their contributions to their project team.”
Teams work on projects that take many years to complete, and rotate through new members about once every two years. Undergraduates sign up for the teams on a by-semester basis, with most staying on a team for two or three semesters but with some staying for up to six semesters. Graduate students are often the backbones of teams, staying on for multiyear stretches and directing the undergraduates as they work together toward the project’s goals.
Although Coyle handles the planning of the overall program, and he and other faculty advisors direct the projects, they aren’t the only ones providing leadership. Instead, graduate students assist with project leadership, including Paul Garver, a Ph.D. candidate from Electrical Engineering, who joined the program in 2012.
Garver first worked on Coyle’s Stadium-Internet of People and Things Project, and in 2014, he moved to join the Intelligent Digital Communications team. Although they have very different goals and methods, both teams work to create and monitor information flow throughout Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“It can be difficult to take what we’ve learned and apply it to real world situations — but that’s also one of the most rewarding parts of the program,” Garver said. “Unlike typical undergraduate student work, the majority of the VIP program’s projects are low-structure, which means that undergraduates get a chance to experience what long-term projects are like in the real world. And graduate students get a chance to work with practice, rather than just theory.”
Applications for the fall are being accepted on an ongoing basis. For more information, visit vip.gatech.edu.