Inter-School Programs

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Joint Engineering & Business course - EE 459/MKT 446/FA 402

USC Viterbi and Marshall School students are brought together to work on an interactive project in an effort to encourage communication and cooperation between students from different schools. Most engineering students know very little to nothing about marketing the products they help create, whereas marketing students may lack valuable insight in product design and development. This innovative class is instrumental in bridging the gap between the two groups and encouraging them to function together as a whole.

Prof. Allan Weber (USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Division of Engineering Education)

The Embedded Systems Design Laboratory (EE 459Lx) is a Capstone course intended for seniors in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering, in which teams of engineering students participate in a product development process by working with teams of students from other departments at USC (Marketing and Fine Arts) to produce a prototype of a marketable product.

The EE 459Lx students provide the engineering expertise to design and build a hardware/software project utilizing one or more embedded processors. The goal is to expose students to the process of developing a new product and to provide an experience very similar to what an engineer would have at any company where they would work to produce a product that not only works but that customers will want to buy.


The goal of the class is to encourage communication and cooperation between students from different schools and to approximate the experience the student might encounter if employed as a design engineer. Most engineering students know very little or nothing about marketing the products they help create, while marketing students usually lack valuable insight in product design and development. A successful product requires both engineering and marketing, and good communication and cooperation between the groups.

Cross-functional Product Development Teams

The teams of EE459Lx engineers collaborate with teams of students from two other classes at USC: Marketing 446 (Practicum in New Product Development) and Fine Arts 402 (Advanced Design Projects). The Marketing 446 student teams will perform market research and analysis to determine design requirements for a marketable products. The FA 402 students work on the physical design of the product and its packaging. The engineering, marketing and design teams work together throughout the semester to develop a final product that not only operates as specified from a technical standpoint, but also incorporates the features that make it a marketable product.

Course description
During the semester, the teams are required to:

  • Design the system using CAD tools or on paper
  • Make an oral presentation to the instructor and class on their proposed design, including a project timeline and cost estimate
  • Determine what parts will be required and select vendors
  • Construct the project in the EE 459Lx lab
  • Debug the project and get it working
  • Demonstrate their project to the instructor and the their peers
  • Perform and oral presentation in front of the class on the details of their project
  • Submit a written report, including circuit diagrams, software listings and a detailed analysis of the cost of manufacturing the project in large quantities

The class strongly emphasizes the importance of teamwork and communication between the students as a necessary aspect of the project.

Past Courses
Spring 2008 Course Feedback
(class co-taught by Viterbi School's Alan Weber and Marshall School's Therese Wilbur)

In Spring 2008 the EE 459L class incorporated a significant change in the class curriculum over previous semesters. With the goal of giving the students a more complete view of the process of developing a marketable product, each engineering team was paired up with a team of marketing students from the USC Marshal School of Business.

Due to differences in the class sizes, there were ten engineering teams and five marketing teams. This resulted in each marketing team being associated with two engineering teams and working on two different designs of the product. The joint student teams were responsible for the development of the class product.

Teams met weekly to discuss the product and exchange information. During the meetings, members brainstormed over what features could be implemented and whether they should be incorporated into the product. The final product was the result of both teams working together to come up with a working and marketable product.

Product specifications

  • Individual alarm times for each day of the week. Since student schedules are usually not identical from Monday through Friday, this clock would have ability to program in different wake-up times for each day. This is not a new idea and there are some clocks on the market with this ability
  • Programmable times for an alert tone go off. These could be used to remind the user that it is time to go to class
  • Alarm and alert times are stored in non-volatile memory so that they are retained if the power is lost. This would prevent a customer from having to re-enter several different alarm and alert times after a power outage
  • Battery backup for the clock to keep it running through any power outages

Communicating Science and Engineering for Children – ENGR 401 (formerly AME 499)

This course offers engineering students with an emphasis in teaching the opportunity to practice their classroom learnings and further develop invaluable teaching skills, while also contributing to improve the lives of people in their community. Instruction is provided by Iridescent, a science education nonprofit organization whose mission is to use science and engineering to develop persistent curiosity and show that knowledge is empowering. A former USC aerospace engineering graduate student founded the organization in 2007.

The course is organized to help engineering students communicate knowledge, collaborate constructively with peers, and inspire underserved children to develop a curiosity and persistence for science and engineering. Throughout the semester, students prepare and deliver hands-on science courses to K-12 children in local underserved communities.

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Center for Instruction in Mathematics to Engineering Students (CIMES)

The Center for the Instruction in Mathematics to Engineering Students (CIMES) is an excercise designed to add an engineering approach to math classes taught at Viterbi, with the goal to make students' math experience easier and help them gauge the relevance that math classes have in the broader engineering curriculum.

In Spring 2005, the College (of Letters, Arts and Science) along with the Viterbi School of Engineering (VSoE) established the Center for the Instruction in Mathematics to Engineering Students (CIMES). The structure consists of a director the Math Department and a deputy director from VSoE. The effort consists of a systematic review of the syllabi for the courses Math 125, 126, 225, 226 and 245 that are required for most engineering undergraduate degree programs. In addition, several engineering faculty participate in teaching these classes.

This exercise has been effective in introducing an engineering flavor to these classes, particularly in maintaining the students’ interest in engineering. For VSoE, student retention has been an issue, and in the past, many of the engineering students opted out of engineering because of difficulties with Math. CIMES has addressed this difficulty, and the current approach of infusing engineering faculty to teach Math has been an effective means for improving education quality for engineering students. However, there has been a difficulty in attracting a sufficient number of engineering faculty available for teaching in the Math Department.

In terms of course restructuring, CIMES (with help from VSoE and Math faculty) redesigned the Math 125 and 126 syllabi (called Math A and Math B) with engineering applications flavor, and also made an early introduction to linear algebra. These syllabi have not been implemented as yet but are ready to go upon approval from the curriculum committees. The impact of CIMES has been realized by the improved math education. The full data on metrics such as retention have not been analyzed as yet.

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Viterbi Student Innovation Institute

USC and the Viterbi School of Engineering promotes, encourages, and nurtures innovation of both its students and faculty. Student innovation is supported through the Viterbi Student Institute for Innovation (VSI2) which will offer educational programs, new venture creation support and networking opportunities to help cultivate the next gen engineering entrepreneur.

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iPodia, where "i" stands for inverted, interactive, and international learning, is an innovative education program initiated by the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. The iPodia vision is "leaning together today for a better world tomorrow". We believe that "togetherness" is a key frontier of higher education development in the 21st century. iPodia™ uses high-bandwidth connectivity and tele-presence technology to bring together teachers and learners around the world. Our goal is to establish a global hub of integrated learning environments among peer institutions to joint classrooms and share courseware for students to learn with, and from, each other across physical, institutional and cultural boundaries. Unlike MOOC, which merely unlocked the course materials at one institution, iPodia™ opens distinct classrooms across different universities. This "Classrooms-Without-Borders" movement changes the higher education system in many fundamental ways.

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Viterbi Startup Garage

Viterbi Startup Garage is a 12 week technology accelerator program that includes $20k in funding, space, strategic and financial resources and access to world-class mentors, and hands-on product, marketing, legal and fundraising support. It was created by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in collaboration with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and United Talent Agency. It is the brainchild of Ashish Soni, Founding Director of VSi2 and the Startup Garage.

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Health, Technology and Engineering (HTE@USC)

Health, Technology and Engineering (HTE@USC) is a joint program between the Keck School of Medicine and the Viterbi School of Engineering. HTE@USC augments the training of select doctors and engineers through project-focused collaboration resulting in the most effective and efficient solutions to real-world healthcare problems. HTE@USC is part of a larger USC effort to promote rapid advances in healthcare through research and education combining the essentials of medicine with advanced engineering and scientific technologies. As active members of inter-disciplinary teams linking researchers at both the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, students learn the patient-centered research approaches required to address the healthcare needs of all patients, including those from traditionally underserved populations.

Published on December 9th, 2016

Last updated on April 28th, 2021