Team Projects evolved about 20 years ago out of the Enterprise in Higher Education scheme. Their aims are
The projects are open to all 3rd year students in Physics, on either the 3-year BSc Physics and Physics & Astronomy, or the 4-year M.Phys Physics, Physics & Astronomy and Theoretical Physics courses. Students undertake the project in either the Michaelmas term (October-December) or the Epiphany term (January-March/April).
Students completing an introductory team game
Teams consist of 4-6 students grouped together by the course organiser. The students are able to swap teams, but are discouraged from doing so (and indeed rarely do). Each student is expected to work on the project for 9 hours per week for 8 weeks. Students are required to meet together on a regular basis and to keep minutes of those meetings.
Student teams meet with their client at the beginning of the project and provide an oral presentation and a copy of their report to their client at the end. If the project has required that they build a piece of equipment this is normally provided to the client, too.
The students are provided with a staff consultant from the Physics Department, whose role is to facilitate the project and also to assess the students' work. They are also provided with lab space, a computer and some basic laboratory equipment, plus a small budget of £200-300 for the purchase of equipment and consumables and (if necessary) extra travel.
We are looking for real projects rather than exercises -- projects to which clients would really like an answer, but perhaps haven't the time, resources or expertise to pursue. They can be blue sky projects on which some preliminary investigation is required, testing of new devices or materials, investigation of curious phenomena observed in the development laboratories, or simply questions for which a fresh perspective might be helpful. Quite often students are working with clients who have no physics expertise in-house, but who have a problem which clearly needs some physics input.
Some examples of projects for previous clients can be found here. Additionally, case studies of past projects can be found here.
Selected quotes from previous clients on their thoughts of the Team Project experience can be found below.
The L3 Team completed and far exceeded the terms of the briefing.
…the team gave a great presentation and seemed really enthusiastic about the project which was great. My colleagues were really impressed with their work.
This has been a fruitful project for me in that the final report gives me clear conclusions which I can pass on to my team for future reference.
Team Projects can be an effective way of performing a preliminary investigation, getting equipment or software produced or even finding a solution to a niggling problem. However, clients should be aware that their teams consist of students, and some are inevitably better than others! Although in general the teams perform well -- often well above their previous performance in their course -- there is no guarantee that an answer to the problem will be forthcoming. In addition, sometimes a team makes excellent progress towards a solution, but there is not enough time to finish the project in the course of a single term. In those cases, we will run often run a `follow-up' project in the next available term with a different team of students.
Prof. Del Atkinson
Phone: 0191 334 3592
Postal: Department of Physics, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE.