Each semester, students in EDSGN 100 demonstrate their newfound design abilities through a sponsored final project. It is a great opportunity for students and sponsors.
The Certificate in Engineering Design is for those students who enjoy engineering design and who want to have an edge in getting their first job.
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Honors students learn engineering design in Singapore
In May 2008, the National University of Singapore (NUS) Department of Mechanical Engineering launched an engineering design summer abroad program.
Eight Penn State students and ten NUS students collaborated during the two-week program, attending interactive classroom sessions, working on a group project, and visiting companies to learn about product development and regulation.
Penn State students earned three credits for taking the 46-hour “Global Product Design and Development” course at NUS. The course was unique in its creation of cross-national design teams. It included units on design and culture and on industrial design, neither of which are taught at Penn State and so provided a useful complement to design courses at Penn State. The course served as a sequel to the spring offering of EDSGN 100H Honors Introduction to Engineering Design.
The NUS program was sought as a counterpart to the France Industry Tour (see page 19) that follows the traditional fall offering of EDSGN 100H. Penn State Engineering Design Professor Richard Devon was involved in the creation of both the France and the NUS programs. NUS Professors Wong, Yoke San and Loh, Han Tong taught the new NUS course, and Penn State Engineering Design Professor Matthew Parkinson delivered several lectures.
“The main focus [of the course] was on the importance of preliminary engineering design,” said David Whapham, a Penn State junior who participated in the program. “I had taken a course like this my freshman year, but what I found was that I had actually overlooked a lot of these fundamental engineering principles as I had progressed through my engineering studies.”
“The biggest lesson I learned is that, as engineers, we always take a problem and start on a solution without really performing a thorough analysis of the problem itself. The professors did a great job of slowing down the problem-solving process to help us fine tune our strategies for determining not just a solution, but the best possible solutions.”
Many students also expressed the importance of experiencing a different style of learning and teaching as well as working with students from a different cultural background.
“The most valuable part of my experience was interacting with the NUS students,” said first-year student Elise Wagner. “It was amazing to see how many different ideas we came up with while working on designs for our project, and I learned so much about the importance of teamwork and leadership. I think all students on both ends got a lot out of the program just by learning about each other’s cultures.”
In addition to the academic coursework and cultural experience in the classroom, the program afforded students the unique opportunity to visit and explore Southeast Asia, exposing them to other Asian cultures and broadening their world view. Five of the students traveled to Phuket, Thailand, for a week and to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a day trip where some of them visited an NUS team mate’s home.
“I tried not to say no to any opportunity to try a new experience or explore a new aspect of the culture—except for the occasional night where I found myself having to choose working on CAD projects over going out,” said Whapham.
During their international excursions, the students explored islands, went snorkeling, ate exotic cuisine, watched a Muay Thai boxing match, relaxed on the beach, went Bungee jumping, and scoped out the night life—all at a reasonable price.
“Visiting Thailand and Malaysia was amazingly and surprisingly inexpensive,” said first-year student Wendy Yu. “My plane ticket to Thailand was $20.
The Schreyer’s Honors College; the College of Engineering; and the Engineering Design Program in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs also provided financial support for students participating in the program.
“With the travel grant from the [Schreyer’s] Honors College, it ended up being comparable to the cost of taking a course at University Park and was much more exciting,” said Nick Bugos, a Penn State junior.
The ultimate takeaway for the students was an unforgettable experience that allowed them to gain a skill set that is becoming increasingly more advantageous to engineering students. Having an international mindset and experiencing engineering through the eyes of another culture allows students to gain an edge in the global economy and prepares them for their career after graduation.
“[The trip] definitely inspired me to travel more and see the world when I graduate,” said Bugos. “If I hadn’t done the course in Singapore, I never would have felt comfortable to go off on my own and do that, and I doubt I would have ever thought to buy a plane ticket to literally the opposite side of the planet to see what is there.”
In the summer of 2009, the NUS program was opened up to other students from Brigham Young University, based on the success of its first trial offering to Penn State students. Parkinson, who taught the spring 2009 offering of EDSGN 100H, contributed to the course again this past summer and will do so again in summer 2010. Students from Peiking University will also join the program, helping to strengthen ties amongst the universities.