Industrial Partners

Our Industrial Partners Program

One of the aspects of IDeA Labs that makes it a unique educational experience for students is our tight relationship with industry. Some student researchers may operate as industry externs, developing theoretical and computational tools relevant to our Partner’s challenges. The students, working either individually or in groups, sharpen their collective expertise on real problems from a variety of contexts. Students graduate ready to tackle the next generation of science and industry’s most pressing problems.

Getting Involved

Potential Industrial Partners who would like to participate in the IDeA Labs Industrial Partners program should contact Dr. Warnick or Dr. Grimsman for more information. He then works with you to assess the industrial challenge to ensure that it is a good fit for IDeA Labs’ researchers and to work out details related to student efforts and support.

What is an Industry Extern?

An Industry Extern is a student who's research is directly related to a key challenge developed in collaboration with an IDeA Labs Industrial Partner. Unlike an intern, who spends most of his or her time on site with the Industrial Partner, an extern may meet regularly with the Industrial Partner but spends most of his or her research time at IDeA Labs on campus. This allows extern projects to continue throughout the school year, sometimes complementing summer internships, and often becoming undergraduate honors thesis experiences.


ATK is a company that produces, among other things, propellants for various types of rockets. The manufacture of such propellants involves a sequence of processing steps, each step employing specialized machines and equipment. The same equipment, however, is used in the manufacture of a variety of different propellant types. ATK approached IDeA Labs to understand the best way to sequence propellant orders at a particular factory to minimize the length of time required to manufacture a specified quota of various propellant types.

Although this problem is provably computationally hard, Sam Weyerman attacked the problem as an undergraduate Industry Extern and developed an integer programming heuristic technique that reduced the production time over ATK’s existing method by 13%. The results became the basis for his undergraduate honors thesis (available here), and he used the max-plus algebra to prove monotonically improving bounds for his method as part of his Masters Thesis (available here). Click here for more information.