The design studio is a series of on-line modules, a new approach to the recitation sections of sophomore circuits courses. Students are presented with problems with conflicting criteria that need to be balanced and have multiple solutions. The creators of these discuss the modules, and Rebecca Morrison gives information on the evaluation of them. The names below are linked to pages that contain this additional information, as well as e-mail addresses for these principals from Texas A&M University. These design studio problems can be accessed at
The Design Studio Contact
Jo Howze (e-mail: )
Associate Dean of Engineering
Texas A&M University
The design studio was initiated by a Ford Motor Company grant called Design Across the Curriculum Initiative. It was to enhance design in each discipline and across disciplines. This design studio was also supported by the Texas Engineering and Technology Consortium through the Texas Workforce Development Grant (TWD) received by the electrical engineering department at TAMU. The goal is to get students excited about engineering. The goal is retention.
Traditionally, engineering has been taught with a “from the bottom up” approach. Engineering is actually from the top down. You go from the need and carry it to the next level. It is completely open-ended. There has been a big paradigm shift in engineering. We need to exercise the students’ keen innovative abilities. We’ve designed a series of problems (example: a camera flash) to get students to understand. There are many solutions to these problems. Engineering is very much an art. Math tools are not necessary to begin to be a productive engineer.
This “from the top down” approach is beginning to manifest itself in the textbooks. Textbooks used to be focused on analysis. Texts are not design oriented (thus, the electronic problems in the design studio). We are making better engineers with the “top down” approach. The senior-level capstone design projects course is too much too late.
Next year we will add the “top down” approach to the junior-level engineering course.
We are redoing laboratories along the same lines. Labs are much more design oriented now. One example is designing a laser security system. This task takes an entirely different approach. We use teams to present idea and to create a competitive spirit. We intend to install solar panels on this building (Zachry Engineering Center at TAMU) to bring energy to the laboratories. We want our engineering students to be ready to into the mainstream when they graduate.
The Ford program offshoot would potentially cross engineering with business. Boeing will allow us to cross aeronautical, electrical, and mechanical engineering, and business. We’ve had similar success with 3M Corporation with electrical and mechanical engineering.
We are demanding that students learn more on their own. There’s so much to know in a short time. Hopefully, we can get students more excited and positively get more U.S. citizens to go to graduate school. In engineering, we are losing about 45% of our students. Engineering is fun; it is really fun, and we’ve got to show it to them!
The huge emphasis on research may be the reason for the change in how engineering is being taught. And A&M is involved in the rankings race, too. As research became more important for universities, we got out of balance. We are beginning to lose students because they are not getting excited about the discipline.
Our vision: We’re hoping, ultimately, that this will lead to a design center or design studio. Student teams would work on design problems that industry brings in. These are parts of a bigger picture.