A person connects wires from a device to a drone as a part of the drone building process.

Developing and deploying a drone package delivery system requires a broad skill set. From the ability to manage a multifaceted organization and teams of technical specialists to understanding audience needs and identifying the resources required to build and test the system, it’s an incredibly complex process—and a first-year assignment in Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals’ Engineering Management (EM) online master’s program.

Johns Hopkins consistently ranks among the nation’s top EM programs and is known for the caliber of its faculty—all of whom are practicing scientists, engineers, or leaders in technical organizations—and for the opportunities, access, and mentorship it offers students. The curriculum draws upon data-driven methods for effective learning engagement and includes a core of leadership/management courses plus electives from 18 technical tracks, a variety unparalleled among its peers.

The drone delivery assignment spans multiple core courses and evolves as the students move through the program, allowing them to approach the problem from multiple angles and apply the specialized knowledge they gain in each class. They problem-solve in groups, providing the kind of collaborative environment that reflects today’s professional workplace, and learning to tap into and leverage their colleagues’ varied skills.

“The project provides students with a way to understand firsthand the complexity of the kinds of problems they’ll need to solve—the multiple perspectives and demands they have to consider,” says Stephanie Caporaletti, a faculty member and the EM program manager.

While students draw upon subject-specific technical expertise, the Johns Hopkins EM program also focuses on other critical topics, such as effective communication and negotiation skills and the ability to plan and manage projects and anticipate potential challenges.

The required semester-long communications course also makes Johns Hopkins’ EM program unique among its peers because it was designed specifically for technically trained students who must excel in effective, strategic, and adept communications when engaging with technical peers, managers, executives, and customers. This focus is apparent in the proposal-writing module, which is taught from an audience perspective, ensuring that students consider customer’s priorities and the attributes they believe are most important.

Because the program’s students are working engineers, many assignments require them to draw upon the knowledge and practices from their own workplace. For a negotiation exercise, for instance, students first learn the methodology and then apply that knowledge by engaging with individuals who handle negotiations within their own company or organization. According to Rick Blank, the previous program manager, “When working engineers have the opportunity to use their own employers as their learning lab, they not only gain an in-depth understanding of aspects of their workplace that they may not have been involved with previously, but we also find this gives our students unique opportunities to meet with leadership in their companies and provide them with new approaches to problem-solving.”

Learn more about the John Hopkins Engineering for Professionals’ Engineering Management program.