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  • Amit Banerjee

First-Year Design: A Lyle Engineer's Ordeal

When I first looked at the Lyle School of Engineering, I could feel something different about it. It was a place that took all the elements of engineering and used them to make each student stronger as scholars and as citizens. Every engineering student that I met exuded a knack to lead, a willingness to collaborate, and a desire to innovate. I was hooked as I knew that this place was something special.

I researched more about the Lyle School of Engineering, and I found out about a class called Introduction to Engineering Design (KNW 2300), where students -who don't know how to build a robot- build a robot that can navigate a course, take environmental readings, and fulfill many more tasks as assigned. This sounded daunting, but this was the class that makes a Lyle engineer different from all other engineers, so I couldn't let this opportunity to try something life-changing pass.

In this course, we were expected to complete a hypothetical mission by NASA that involved building a rover that could extract environmental data from a "newly discovered planet". This sounded like an impossible expectation for first-year-students, but as we heard more about the details of the project, we realized that the course is designed to guide teams through the design and construction phases of the project, breaking down the mission into different parts and assigning deliverables throughout the semester.

Knowing that the project was completely manageable but still a challenge, we got to work right away. The Hart Center for Engineering Leadership enabled our team to work well together because they helped us understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and how to assign based on those qualities. We faced many obstacles during the semester, but we could overcome all of them because we had a toolbox of team building and problem solving approaches that made us a stronger and more strategic unit. This class gave us the chance to have hands-on practice as leaders and collaborators in an engineering setting.

However, Collaboration and Leadership are are only two of the three main parts of this class with Innovation being the third. First-Year Design puts a heavy emphasis on the importance of design and good planning. We quickly learned that a poor design usually results in a poor product. We put a lot of effort into designing our robot and making sure that it could fulfill all the requirements as efficiently as possible. Before we could begin constructing the robot, each team was required to give a thorough presentation of their design in front of a panel that consisted of Engineering faculty, staff, and TAs.

Ultimately, this class was one of the most rewarding experiences for me as an engineer because it gave me the opportunity to try accomplishing something that seemed impossible. This course helped me become stronger as a leader, team member, and innovator. Because of this course, my confidence in my problem-solving ability has increased, and I don't doubt myself as an engineer at all anymore. This class officially made me worthy of being called an SMU Lyle Engineer.