General Engineering: A longstanding course refuses to stay static

students working in design lab

Students working on autonomous EV3 robots in the General Engineering (EG) 1003 model shop

It’s a tall order for a single course: introduce every engineering student who walks through the doors of NYU Tandon to the design process, CAD, project management, technical communications, the ethical considerations and social impacts of their work, and how to collaborate in teams.

To that end, General Engineering (EG) 1003 holds 24 sections that attract some 350 students each semester, employs a veritable army of highly trained TAs from a variety of majors, and encompasses:

  • lectures on such disparate topics as artificial intelligence, digital logic, civil infrastructure, the evolving aerospace industry, cybersecurity, and robotics
  • hands-on labs involving boom construction, prototyping with Arduinos, biomedical forensics, and more
  • opportunities to practice public speaking and project presentations
  • workshops on skills like soldering and working with circuit boards
  • prosthetic footsemester-long design projects for the Rapid Assembly and Design Challenge (RAD), inspired by the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges, which ask students to identify a problem that needs to be solved, develop a solution, and build a working prototype. Last year’s prototypes included a smart prosthetic foot (pictured right), assistive technology for the blind, and a holographic pet that made it to the finals of Tandon’s hotly contested InnoVention Competition — a rarity for a first-year team.

Industry Assistant Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering Jack Bringardner teaches the General Engineering introductory course and also serves as the director of Vertically Integrated Projects program, which allows students to take part in hands-on, multidisciplinary projects of real-world importance and work on them almost the entirety of their academic careers. He says, “EG1003 is a great cornerstone experience to prepare students for future projects at Tandon. As we expand the opportunities in our course, we hope to connect students to experiences at NYU and help them develop the skills they need for professional environments.”

That expansion is already well under way. This year, EG1003 students will be able to complete new labs in virtual product dissection (honing their ability to reverse engineer a technology) and prototyping with microcontrollers and sensors, as well as take on complex design projects involving VEX robotics Martian rovers and wearable biomedical devices.

Other updates in the works include moving towards more advanced and sustainable projects and labs, incentivizing first-year students to continue their project development, and connecting them to the plethora of business and marketing resources NYU offers.

Industry Professor Gunter Georgi, who oversees EG1003 as program director, explains that Tandon’s first-year engineering program ranks among the top in the nation and says, “We provide students with the chance to explore their individual academic interests while exposing them to new ones; in fact, about 20% change their intended majors after completing EG1003 and learning about the wide variety of engineering disciplines and the possibilities they present. They get valuable mentoring from our diverse group of teaching assistants, almost 60% of whom are women this year, reflecting Tandon’s drive for gender equality, and they take major steps on their paths to becoming the skilled engineers the world needs.” 

TA Daijah Etienne, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering, sums up the extreme value of the long-required but ever-developing course.  “It’s just three credits,” she says, “but that’s three credits that can make an enormous difference to your life.”