Policies and procedures

Policies Governing the Experiential Learning Fund

New or updated policies are shown in underlined text.

Purpose of the Experiential Learning Fund

The purpose of the Experiential Learning Fund is to support extracurricular design-implementation engineering projects in which students learn by doing, often (but not necessarily) in the spirit of competition. These funds result from the commitment of a donor to realizing the potential of hands-on student learning at the University of Virginia.

Purpose of this policy statement

  1. To guide students and faculty in making appropriate requests of these funds.
  2. To prioritize funding decisions by setting metrics, and through defined application deadlines.
  3. To define nominal expectations, and to define spending limits.
  4. To make student groups accountable for their funding.

Who may apply for the Experiential Learning Funds?

  1. Funds must be requested by undergraduate or graduate students, not faculty or staff.
  2. Funds should be requested by groups of students. Applications from individuals will not ordinarily be considered.
  3. Groups of students may include students other than those in SEAS, but some group members must be from SEAS.
  4. Groups requesting more than $1,000 in funding must have a faculty advisor.

The nature of projects that may be funded

  1. Student ownership of the work is essential.
  2. Projects must be generative in nature and involve engineering design.
    1. Generative in this context refers to creation of a novel “product,” whether it be (for example) a machine, a physical object, a piece of software, or a document.
    2. Engineering design is a decision-making process (often iterative), in which the basic sciences, mathematics, and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective.[1]
  1. Priority in funding will be given first to groups engaging in national competitions;
    1. Next most, groups engaged in projects that provide a service to the University or to society;
    2. Next most, groups engaged in publically visible projects;
    3. Next most, groups that engage in educational activities that are related to generative projects;
    4. Next most, groups engaged in design or research that is not otherwise part of the central mission of a faculty member’s lab.
  2. Not normally funded:
    1. Individuals (as opposed to groups).
    2. Normal educational practice.
    3. Trips to conferences, except where the conference is directly and necessarily related to the generative project (for example, competitions stemming from the project).
    4. Projects that directly support faculty-generated research or design projects.
    5. Clubs with no engineering design or engineering education goal.
  3. If potential applicants are uncertain as to the appropriateness of the request, then they should contact the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education (ADUE) before applying.

Amounts that can be requested

  1. Amounts that can be requested of the Experiential Learning Funds, specifically, regardless of the total need:
    1. Funding requests in excess of $25,000 will not be considered.
    2. Funding requests in excess of $10,000 must be accompanied by plans for (or evidence of) complementary requests to other sources of funds. These complementary sources may include donations of goods or services. These complementary requests must be toward the total project need, and not toward “extras” that are not needed for the project.
    3. Requests that total more than $1,000 per group member (e.g. for a 5-member group, >$5,000) should seek complementary funding sources; failure to do so will not be viewed favorably.
  2. There is no minimum funding request.
  3. Awarded funds are not “owned” by the student group; they may be revoked and recovered at any time for cause.
  4. Sudden increases in requested funds over previous years will be viewed skeptically, and may result in not being funded.
  5. Requests after the fact to cover budget shortfalls will not normally be considered.

Applying for funds

  1. Prior funding does not guarantee future funding.
  2. Applications for funding will be accepted and are due three times a year, unless otherwise announced:
    1. 4-weeks after the first day of Fall classes.
    2. 2-weeks after the first day of Spring classes.
    3. 3-weeks prior to the end of Spring classes.
  3. Interim funding: Competitive clubs who received funding in the previous academic year may request up to 20% of the previous years’ non-conditional funds (see below definition, item 4.b) to begin their work.
    1. Such interim funding requests should be made 1-week after the first day of Fall classes.
    2. These requests must be followed by a full application, submitted by the Fall deadline (see item 2.a, above).
  4. Applications should include all known non-conditional expenses, as well as estimates of conditional
    1. All known expenses include those above and beyond what is being requested of the Experiential Learning funds. For example, a total budget of $30,000 must be split between Experiential Learning funds and another source, but the entire expense budget should be shown, and the other source identified.
    2. Non-conditional expenses are those that are needed for the execution of the engineering project itself. These expenses typically include, but are not limited to, parts and supplies.
    3. Conditional expenses are those that are contingent upon successful completion of the engineering project, or some other critical milestone. For example, travel to a competition is contingent upon successful completion of some or all of the generative project.
  5. Each of the above categories of funds may only be requested once per year. 
  6. The applicants must separate out estimates of conditional expenses from the immediate funding request.
    1. Specific amounts of conditional funding will be requested once the critical milestone is reached, not before.
    2. Estimates of conditional funds are needed in the original application so that the ADUE can reserve funds for those anticipated needs.
  7. Applications for competitive clubs must include metrics of past competitive performance, and a plan for improving that performance.
  8. Applications must come in the form of an official application packet, which is available on this web site.

Special requirements during COVID-19

Applicants must be realistic about their projects under the restrictions and requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every application must include a section on how pandemic-related restrictions will affect their project and how those restrictions will be accommodated. For example:

  1. If you are building something for competition, will the competition be held? What are the current plans according to the organizers? If the competition is cancelled, what are your plans for using or returning the funds?
  2. If you need to use University facilities, will you have access to them and how will you meet distancing guidelines?
  3. If you require travel, realize that UVA currently does not allow University funded travel. We may not be able to reimburse you at all depending on how University policies evolve.

This is not an exhaustive list. Think about all the ways the pandemic might hinder (or even enable) your project, and deal with them head-on.

How funding decisions are made

  1. An advisory board will be formed by the ADUE, at their discretion.
    1. This board may consist of students, staff, faculty, and/or external partners.
    2. Not ordinarily be asked to serve will be the officers of clubs that might receive funding.
    3. Club members will be asked to recuse themselves from reviewing applications from their own clubs.
    4. Applications for non-conditional funds (but not ordinarily supplemental funds or conditional funds) will be reviewed by the Advisory Board
  2. A group’s history of responsible conduct and effective leadership may be considered in funding decisions.
  3. When the intent of a project is to participate in a national or regional competition, then the past competitive history of the group may be considered as part of the funding decision.
    1. A history of consistently poor competitive performance may result in not being funded so that new competitive groups can form.
    2. Conversely, a history of strong competitive performance will be viewed favorably.
  4. For any high-budget project, the progress of the group in identifying complementary funding sources may also be considered.
  5. The ADUE will make final decisions based on input from the Board, their own reading of the application, the competing interests of the applicant groups, and the available funds.

Obligations of the group, once funds are awarded

  1. All students are required to abide by the policies and procedures of any laboratory or shop in which they work. Failure to do so may result in revocation of funds.
    1. Failure to maintain a clean and organized workspace will be interpreted as a violation.
    2. This in particular applies to Lacy Hall, the shared fabrication and assembly facility for many competitive clubs.
  2. No overdrafts will be permitted.
    1. Reimbursements beyond the available funds in the group’s account will be rejected.
    2. Supplemental funding requests can be made, but will be viewed skeptically, are not guaranteed, and are contingent upon funds being available.
  3. Conditional funds (if included as part of the project) must be specifically requested after successful completion of the critical milestone, not before, even though estimates must be provided at the time of application.
  4. Funding will end after one year.
    1. For example, for funds awarded in Fall 2018, the funds terminate at the end of the 3rd summer session, 2019.
    2. Exceptions to this policy must be obtained by written request to the Director.
  1. Unused funds will be recovered at the end of the award term; carryover will not be permitted, except through prior arrangement.
    1. We will recover unused funds antecedent to this policy statement.
    2. Alternatively, we will deduct residual funds from the newly awarded amount.
  2. Groups are encouraged to use excess parts, supplies, and equipment purchased by the previous years’ group. Discarded tools and supplies, or those that are either disorganized or whose ownership cannot be determined, become the property of the host shop or lab.
  3. A written report is due by the end of the academic year for which funding was requested, but ideally immediately after the work is completed.
    1. This report must be returned in the form of an official reporting packet, which will be made available on the web site of the Office of Educational Innovation, or can be requested from the Director.
    2. Reports are required for any and all funding amounts.
    3. Failure to turn in a report at the end of the funded period will result in rejection of new requests. 

[1] ASEE definition of “Engineering design”