CEID classes take root

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Photo by Wa Liu.

Students in this semester’s “Green Engineering and Sustainable Design” seminar will find everything they need to succeed in their new classroom. Whiteboard? Check. Markers? Check. 3D printer, laser cutter and power tools? Check.

“Design,” in which students work in groups to design products, processes and systems that are environmentally friendly, relocated this term from a lecture auditorium in Kroon Hall to the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design (CEID) in the Becton Center. It joins six other design-based courses that have made the CEID their permanent home since the center opened August 2012, in a move that “Design” teacher and environmental engineering professor Julie Zimmerman said aligns with a shift in Yale engineering courses from lecture-based to hands-on instruction.

“We’ve always wanted to do prototyping, and it went from toilet paper rolls and scotch tape to being able to use the 3D printer and laser cutter,” Zimmerman said. “The projects have always been really creative, but [the CEID] makes them a lot more real.”

Although Zimmerman gave her students the option of using the CEID for project development last year, they are now required to become members of the CEID before registering for class. As part of class enrollment, they will receive extra training on the laser cutter, 3D printer and other CEID resources required to complete labs, homework assignments and final projects.

At the end of the semester, students will present their designs to a judging panel of industry and faculty members for their final grades.

Deputy dean of engineering and applied sciences Vincent Wilczynski said he and other collaborators on the CEID’s construction left the second floor of the center as classroom space in anticipation of CEID-based courses. He added that has seen high interest from both students and instructors in continuing to explore the potential of the space for student-driven innovation.

“[CEID classes are] the interface between theoretical teaching and practical implementation,” said Tarek Fahmy, a biomedical engineering professor who teaches “Engineering, Innovation and Design” along with mechanical engineering professor Eric Dufresne ’96.

“It’s easy to say, well, here’s how you would design a specific mechanical gadget to do something,” he added. “But it’s different when people actually go out there and design it themselves and can print out the different parts. It’s much more pleasurable teaching because of the greater understanding [students] have of the problem.”

Other courses in the CEID this spring include “Appropriate Technology for the Developing World,” in which students will work on a portable refrigeration system for vaccine delivery, and “Engineering, Innovation and Design,” an introductory survey course geared towards freshmen in which students design technological solutions to real-life problems presented by clients at Yale and in New Haven.

Last semester saw the start of another class in the CEID, where students in the first-time course “Medical Design and Innovation” developed prototypes for novel medical devices in response to pitches from students at the Yale School of Medicine. Pablo Napolitano ’15, who worked on a device for pediatric hemophilia patients, said the class and others like it are strengthening the Yale engineering program by giving students the opportunity to work in groups and create their own devices.

“I know a lot of seniors who have never worked on a prototype, and I think that’s a problem,” Napolitano said. “But I think that these classes are aiming to solve that problem.”

Cindy Zheng ’16, who took “Engineering, Innovation and Design” last spring, praised the CEID for being accessible to engineering and nonengineering majors alike. Zheng, an economics major who had not been a member of the CEID before enrolling in the course, credited the class for revealing to her the resources and accessibility of the center. Zimmerman said her “Green Engineering and Sustainable Design” course, which is required for environmental engineering majors, regularly admits students from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, School of Management, School of Architecture, the humanities and other areas of STEM, as do other CEID-based classes.

While Zheng has since used the CEID primarily as a study space, she said she hopes to use the skills she acquired in class to future CEID-based projects. Environmental engineering major Ellie Killiam ’15, who hopes to take “Design” this semester, also said she hopes the course will be a gateway for her to delve more deeply into the CEID’s technological resources.

“Having a class in the CEID will be exciting because [the resources are] something I wouldn’t fully use if I didn’t have the class to motivate me to become a member, [and] it’s a much more interesting environment in which to learn,” said Madeline Landon ’16, an environmental engineering major who is also shopping “Design.”

“Being able to see everything you have at your disposal is a catalyst for new ideas. You’re already thinking about what you can do because you can see it in front of you.”

The CEID, which is open 24 hours a day, has approximately 1,250 current members.

 

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