Student projects are a great way to learn how to work with others on an engineering projects. Those open ended problems will always exist. However, one of things I have learned from a student design project is it's all about money. If you aren't able to market yourself, you won't be able to get funding for your project. It doesn't matter how revolutionary it is- it probably isn't anyway- but if you aren't able to obtain funding, you don't succeed.
Student projects also give you the capability to truly understand the resources that you have at your disposal. At my school for instance, we have a student machine shop where students can fabricate pretty much anything they design- as long as you know how. Now, this gives you the ability to view design from the view of a manufacturer, but it also gives you the capability to greatly reduce your overhead.
Finally, you create a lot of good friendships and networking skills along the way. You understand who your friends are (and aren't), as well as being able to create and maintain company contacts (these are the people you are asking for money).
Just get involved in something related to this, because it is VERY worthwhile to see what the "real world" is like before you actually experience it.