Even as undergraduate students, Cornell project team members are already solving complex real-world problems, such as engineering cancer-killing bacteria or developing sustainable irrigation for Tanzanian farmers.
Cornell Engineering currently backs 34 project teams, comprising nearly 1,400 total students. Members hail from all seven of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges, with majors including engineering, the arts and business.
The Experimental Learning Lab in Upson Hall is officially dedicated for project team use, and members also enjoy access to highly developed labs, workshops and workspaces. Annually, the project teams collectively accept more than one million dollars in funding from Cornell, corporations and private donors.
Project teams supplement classroom education by providing students with hands-on engineering, leadership and professional experience. To Arron Chang ’25, a member of AguaClara Cornell, joining a project team provides the opportunity to tackle worldwide issues while working with a supportive community.
“I decided to join a project team to be able to apply material learned in class on real-world applications with many wonderful, like-minded teammates,” Chang said.
Aleksandra Nasiukiewicz ’23, the full team lead of CUSail, shared similar notions, as she joined her project team as a way to gain industry insight and network with fellow students.
“I decided to join a project team to get a sense of what it is like to be a part of an engineering team,” Nasiukiewicz said. “I knew about project teams coming into Cornell and I knew that outside of the cool projects, they were a great way to learn from upperclassmen about engineering principles and the industry as a whole.”
Ana Hoffman ’26, a member of Cornell University Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, said that her project team allows her to pursue her passion for engineering as a biology major.
“I did robotics in high school, and I really enjoyed it,” Hoffman said. “A project team was a great option to keep doing what I am interested in without [pursuing] another degree.”
Hoffman said that she enjoys learning new skills while working on the team’s projects.
“I have learned how to use new machines in the machine shop, and I am learning computer-aided design,” Hoffman said.
In addition to gaining experience and connections, many project team members find value in making a positive, real-world impact. Chang, for example, is proud of AguaClara’s technological contributions to water equity.
“I am most proud of my project team for establishing zero electricity, gravity-powered water treatment facilities in many different countries around the world, which provide clean water to countless people in diverse communities,” Chang said.
Nancy Duong ’25, a member of Cornell AppDev, said that she felt especially excited to see that the app the group designed, Resell, launched on Android. In addition to the team’s technological accomplishments, Duong said that she also cherishes the community she has found along the way.
“My favorite part [of being in a project team] is [being a part of] the design subteam. They are the most wonderful people [I have] ever met, and I am extremely fortunate to be their friend,” Duong said.
Tony Jia ’25, a member of Cornell Baja Racing, similarly values being surrounded by a group of passionate individuals.
“I was surprised by the strength of the community I found and the passion each member had for cooperation,” Jia said.
Nasiukiewicz echoed this sentiment, saying that working for extended periods of time with her group brought lifelong friendships.
“Being surrounded by a group of such dedicated and exceptional people has the ability to bring out the best in anyone,” Nasiukiewicz said. “These are the people who are with you when you are struggling through classes but also there when you joke around and celebrate major victories. These are the friendships that I know will last beyond my time at Cornell.”