First-year engineering students tackle a project in Duke's EGR101L course, Engineering Design and Communication - First-Year Design Experience

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An Authentic Design Experience in Your First Year

Duke Engineering students learn to think and work like engineers from the start

While traditional engineering curricula start off with years of analytical coursework, Duke's First-Year Design Program provides students opportunities to think and work like engineers from the start.

In our signature course, EGR 101L: Engineering Design and Technical Communication, students work in teams to design, build and deliver prototype solutions to problems presented by real clients. Through this hands-on experience, students gain technical, communication, and analytical skills—as well as the chance to experience the positive impact engineers, can make.

Duke first-year design team for Simulation Device for Intravenous Injection Training“I came to engineering school knowing I wanted to work on medical devices. To say that I had a taste of my dream, in my very first semester, was very, very exciting."

Emily Barre | FIRST-year design student
About Emily's Project »

First-Year Design teams work on a wide range of projects for campus institutions like the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Duke Lemur Center, and the Duke University School of Nursing, as well as companies and community organizations in North Carolina and beyond. Visit the First Year Design website to see sample projects.

Many students choose to keep working on their projects for a second semester through EGR190: Design 2 Deliver, and some even go on to win national design competitions or start the process of patenting their designs.

Specially Designed Spaces for Learning and Creating

Our students learn and create in on-campus maker spaces that bristle with racks of tools and shelves of rapid prototyping technology:

As Duke students, they also have access to campus-wide resources, like the Innovation Co-Lab—which is across the street from the Wilkinson Building, home to Duke Engineering's newest "garage labs" and other spaces for design and entrepreneurship education.

'I Can Do This'

Created by nationally recognized engineering educator Ann Saterbak, the First-Year Design course focuses on challenging projects that introduce first-year students to the rigor of engineering school—including engineering calculations, planning and communication. For assistance, teams can turn to mentors drawn from across Duke Engineering’s faculty, who provide coaching and advice.

Research suggests that first-year students who take design courses are more likely to stay with engineering as their undergraduate degree. Students have improved self-efficacy—the "I can do it" belief that they can succeed in problem-solving and meet challenges going forward.


President Vincent Price visits the Duke Engineering Design Pod"Duke has systematically and energetically refocused our curriculum around active, engaging, problem-based research and design projects. This is being done particularly well by Duke Engineering."

Vincent E. Price |President, Duke University
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