First Year Engineering Design Course Seeks Clients

Students working on engineering design projects

As part of a new initiative in the Pratt School of Engineering, first-year engineering students solve authentic, client-based design challenges. In the course, “Engineering Design and Communication,” students work in multi-disciplinary teams to design and build solutions to these challenges. These projects allow students to discover the importance and relevance of engineering by solving contemporary problems whose solutions benefit clients or society directly. The course instructors, Sophia Santillan and Ann Saterbak, are seeking high-quality client-based or community-driven projects to be solved by first-year Duke University engineering students in the Fall 2018 iteration of the course.

Santillan wrote:

We’re looking for project ideas from researchers, community members, non-profits, and local businesses. We’re seeking worthwhile and relevant ideas, problems, or areas of improvement you observe in your work, home or community. We will work with you to frame the problem to be tractable for a team of first-year engineering students to complete over the course of one semester.

Characteristics of successful projects include:

  • solvable without any specific disciplinary engineering knowledge,
  • multiple parts or pieces, making it easy to be worked on by a team,
  • the opportunity for prototype design and iteration, and
  • open-ended (i.e., you can readily visualize several different ways to solve the project).

A subset of student projects from Fall 2017 included:

  • design a test jig for a brainwave headset to verify that individual devices are detecting realistic human brain EEG signals,
  • build a flexible feeding system for lemurs that can be placed 15-20 feet up a tree,
  • develop a spoon and fork for a young woman who has cerebral palsy, and
  • develop an automated system to raise and lower lids on cold frames at Duke Gardens based on temperature.

All projects are fully funded by Pratt; there is no financial cost as a submitter of ideas or as a project mentor. Project mentors typically spend 5-10 hours working with a student team during the semester. If you have a project idea, please contact Sophia Santillan or Ann Saterbak directly.

Amy Kenyon

Author: Amy Kenyon

Amy plans, implements and assesses faculty development programs for the improvement of teaching and learning, provides programs and resources designed to increase understanding of the teaching and learning process and manages personnel and other resources in the Teaching Innovation group of Learning Innovation. Her interests are in student-centered course and program design, curriculum mapping, assessment and engaging teaching strategies for student learning.