History of the Clinic Program

Five decades ago, while watching a Homecoming parade, one of HMC’s engineering professors turned to a colleague and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to channel the energy and ingenuity these students use to create a winning float into solving real technical problems?” In a moment of revelry-induced inspiration, the concept of the Harvey Mudd College Clinic Program was born.

Under the guidance of a faculty advisor and company liaison, students work in teams of four or five to develop solutions to unsolved problems presented by sponsoring organizations. The company liaison outlines what the company expects for its investment, approves the team’s proposal for accomplishing its work, sets up meetings between the Clinic team and company representatives and, on occasion, arranges for special testing equipment and/or software.

Applying their learning in creative ways, HMC students then deliver—either pushing forward the industry standard in research and development or building a working prototype that meets company specifications.

The Clinic projects, some of which are jointly run by several HMC departments to promote cross-fertilization between fields and encourage application of diverse viewpoints and a variety of techniques, begin in September, involve between 1,200 and 1,500 work hours and are completed the following May. Teams unveil their findings to professors, friends, families, company liaisons and other sponsor representatives at HMC’s annual “Projects Day.”

Over the years, HMC students—many of whom have received job offers from sponsoring organizations—have tackled design and manufacturing problems in more than 1,400 Clinic projects for more than 400 clients, many of them Fortune 1000 companies.