Pick 3: Modules give first-year students closer look engineering majors

Students in the ES 140 civil and environmental engineering module visit the Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability.


Some engineering students arrive with a clear idea of their paths through college to future careers. Others know their strengths lie in math and science, but they’re not sure of the best engineering major to fit their interests.

ES 140 is a course for both.

In the first case, it reinforces a decision the students already made. In the second, it exposes them to specific topics of interest so they can settle on a specific major.

Christopher Rowe, associate professor of engineering management and director of general engineering, who helped redesign the course a decade ago, said incoming students select three modules for their first semester, spending about four weeks in each. It takes 13 faculty members from across the departments to guide about 340 students through the course.

“The power of ES 140 and the way that it’s structured is that it lends itself extremely well to hands-on design projects. That’s important for first-year students – get them in a lab and get their hands dirty,” Rowe said.

Last school year, those who picked civil and environmental engineering as a module spent days at Vanderbilt’s Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability, located in the city’s Metro Center business park. There, they fabricated and tested wind turbine blades in a large wind tunnel. Next year, students in the mechanical engineering module will complete projects in the Design Studio, learning how 3D printers work and making their own projects on them.

No matter what modules they choose, all students must work in teams to deliver a project at the end of each, and it doesn’t end there. Presentations at the end of nearly all the modules encourage students to communicate effectively about their work.


Heidi Hall, 615-322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering