You are here

The First Year

Pratt students having lunch with CEE professor Zbigniew Kabala.

The first year of study in the Pratt School of Engineering is largely common to all engineers, with seven of the eight first-year courses being completely transferable between the five engineering majors. The first-year curriculum offers:

  • A general education in the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and chemistry, on which the science and practice of engineering are based
  • Instruction in modern engineering problem solving skills, including the use of digital technology for both computational and laboratory applications
  • The opportunity to explore intellectual opportunities in Trinity College, through satisfaction of the university writing requirement and selection of a humanities and social sciences elective
  • An opportunity to take our new first-year design course, 190L: Engineering Design and Communication

Students predisposed toward a particular Pratt major use the eighth course to begin fulfilling degree requirements for that major as indicated below, while undecided students are encouraged to use this eighth course to aid in their subsequent selection of a major.

First-YEar Curriculum General Layout

First Semester

  • Mathematics 111L
  • Chemistry 101DL
  • Writing 101 or Humanities/Soc. Sci. Elective
  • Engineering 103L [See 'Notes' below]

Second Semester

  • Mathematics 112L
  • Physics 151L
  • Writing 101 or Humanities/Soc. Sci. Elective
  • Technical Course [See 'Technical Course 'below]


  1. All engineering students must take EGR 103L - Computational Methods in Engineering, preferably in the fall semester. Only under special circumstances should students plan to take this course in the spring semester.
  2. The above assumes no Advanced Placement (AP) credit. In the event that such credit is granted for one or more of the above courses, substitutions of upper-level technical requirements can be made or other curricular interests may be pursued. First-year students may email for assistance interpreting AP credit as it pertains to course selection.

Technical Course

The first-year technical course should be selected according to a student's intended major, if known:

  • Undecided: Biology 201L or one of the classes listed below
  • Biomedical Engineering: Biology 201L
  • Civil Engineering: EGR 190
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering: ECE 110L
  • Environmental Engineering: EGR 190
  • Mechanical Engineering: EGR 121L

EGR 190L: Engineering Design and Communication

The Pratt School of Engineering has created a new course for first-year students – EGR 190L: Engineering Design and Communication.

In the 2017-2018 academic year, EGR 190L will be offered as a pilot course to selected students. In this class, students will learn and apply the engineering design process to solve an authentic problem.


If you received an invitation to enroll for Fall 2017, you must enroll by July 14, 2017. Click here to accept your invitation to enroll in EGR 190L.

If you would like to take EGR 190L in Fall 2017, and were not randomly selected for the spring semester, click here to place your name on the course's Fall 2017 waitlist.

More information

Click below to read a detailed FAQ about EGR 190L:

EGR 190L – Frequently Asked Questions


What sort of course is EGR 190L?

In EGR 190L, students learn and apply the engineering design process to solve an authentic design problem. Design problems will be drawn from local and international nonprofits, companies, medical facilities, and organizations. Anticipated clients for Fall 2017 include the Duke Lemur Center, Duke Forest, the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, local watersheds, and several departments in the Duke University Medical Center, to name a few. There are projects that overlap with all five engineering majors in Pratt and students will be placed on a team based on their project preference. Teams work together for the duration of the semester. Read an article about the course and its instructors.

The first half of the course is devoted to defining and researching a design problem, establishing design goals, brainstorming solutions, and using a decision matrix to select a solution. The second half of the course focuses on prototype development, iteration, and testing with the goal of meeting the established design goals. Students build devices (physical, electronic, or biological), or develop processes or computer programs. They use project management tools to schedule activities and meet deadlines. Students develop their communication skills by writing technical documents and giving oral presentations.

Why should I take EGR 190L?

EGR 190L will equip you with engineering design skills that will help you throughout your engineering education. You will develop your oral and written communication skills, and develop your abilities in teamwork and creativity.

Do I need Advanced Placement Credit(s)?

No, you do not need any advanced placement credit to participate.

Will EGR 190L help me select a major?

It is expected that participation in this course will help students understand the aspects of engineering that appeal to them, and therefore help inform the decision of which engineering major is a best match for them.

How do I enroll in EGR 190L?

An email will be sent to fifty (50) randomly selected students to invite them to enroll in EGR 190L in the fall. Fifty (50) students will be randomly selected to enroll in Spring 2018.

If you are assigned to Writing 101 in the Fall 2017 semester, then you have the opportunity to be selected for EGR 190L in the Spring 2018 semester. Those students who are assigned to Writing 101 in Spring 2018 have the opportunity to be selected for EGR 190L in the Fall 2017.

If you accept your invitation to participate, then enrollment in the course will require a permission number, which you will receive from the Undergraduate Education Office. 

Is there a deadline to accept the invitation and enroll in EGR 190L?

Yes, if you are randomly selected to enroll in the course, July 14, 2017, is the deadline to enroll in the course for Fall 2017.  Enrollment deadline for Spring 2018 will be determined during spring registration that occurs in November 2017. Click here to accept your invitation to enroll in EGR 190L.

If I am selected, can I decline the invitation to enroll in EGR 190L?

In the 2017-2018 academic year, EGR 190L is optional. We anticipate this first-year design course will be required of all Pratt students in future academic years. Your participation will help inform the future content of this course. 

If you choose to decline your invitation to EGR 190L, you should take a social science and humanities elective instead. Click here to decline your invitation to enroll in EGR 190L.

What if I want to take EGR 190L but I am not selected?

If you would like to take EGR 190L in Fall 2017, and were not randomly selected, you can click here to place your name on the EGR 190L Fall 2017 waitlist. Note: Only students who are NOT selected to take Writing 101 in the Fall are eligible for EGR 190L in the Fall. Students who take Writing 101 on the Fall will be eligible for EGR 190L in the Spring 2018 semester.

How will EGR 190L count toward my engineering degree requirements?

Engineering students are required to take five social science and humanities courses. For the Class of 2021, this class will count as one of those five courses.

Duke FOCUS program

Our engineering students do participate in the Duke FOCUS Program, and find it is an incredible enhancement to their engineering studies.

Duke FOCUS ProgramThe program is an exciting opportunity for first-semester Duke students to be exposed to ideas from across the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. FOCUS offers interdisciplinary clusters that nurture intellectual curiosity and a sense of academic adventure. Each cluster provides a range of interrelated seminars and features a community element while fulfilling curriculum requirements.

Engineering students may apply to participate in any of the FOCUS clusters, but students with fewer than two (2) AP credits should discuss with an academic dean how FOCUS courses will impact their engineering degree requirements. Contact a Pratt academic dean.

At Pratt, FOCUS courses can be used to satisfy social science/humanities electives, or free electives, depending on the course or courses.  In addition, if a student chooses the engineering-themed FOCUS cluster, it could count toward the BME departmental elective requirement.

Learn more about the Duke FOCUS Program at its website.