Universities Look to Re-engineer Education

As engineering schools begin to restart in-person classes, they are looking at which new methods of digital instruction they should keep.

NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević spoke with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to share key learnings from the pandemic, and how some innovations and adaptations will continue into the future.

NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering already had a robust online learning program, but the faculty wanted to give students additional incentives. In summer of 2020, ahead of the typical fall start date, the school offered master-level classes for free as a form of financial aid and a career service boot camp to let students imagine their future. “We called it a jumpstart experience,” Kovačević said.

Touchless operation for elevators

Then the school did something even more exciting. They announced a Tandon Made Challenge, in which both undergraduate and graduate students would pitch solutions to real-life problems that medical workers at the NYU Langone Hospital needed to solve. Those whose ideas were picked received $5,000 to implement them.

The winning undergraduate team forged a kit that allowed elevator passengers to choose the floor without touching a button. The winning graduate team devised a flexible spring band that could wrap around the handles of shopping carts, rented bikes, and other things, reducing the spread of germs; it also came with a travel-size sanitizer. The Tandon Made Challenge proved so stimulating for students’ creativity and so beneficial overall, that it remains part of the operation, Kovačević said. “We’re keeping it. And when we can, we will do it in person.”