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, in Duke's First-Year Design Program students think and work like engineers from the start.

In EGR 101L: Engineering Design and Technical Communication, first-year students work in teams to design, build and deliver prototype solutions to problems presented by real clients.

Through active, hands-on learning, our students gain technical, communication, and analytical skills. They become equipped with new skills and gain inspiration from seeing the impact engineers make. What is Duke First-Year Design? »

“I came to Duke knowing I wanted to work on medical devices. To have had a taste of my dream in my very first semester was very, very exciting."

Emily Barre '21 | Now a Medical Student at DUKE

Real Clients, Real Challenges

First-Year Design teams have worked on solutions for campus institutions like the Duke Lemur Center and the Duke University School of Nursing. They've also tackled challenges faced by partner companies and community organizations in North Carolina and beyond. 

Summaries of recent projects »

The experience doesn't have to end there. Students may choose to keep working on their designs in EGR190: Design 2 Deliver. Some teams have even gone on to win national design competitions—and start the process to patent their designs.

Spaces Designed for Creating

Handtools hang on pegboards in the Design Pod at Duke University

Our engineering students learn and create in specially designed spaces that bristle with racks of tools and are packed with rapid prototyping technology.

As Duke students, these innovators and creators also have access to university-supported maker spaces.

Duke Engineering's new Wilkinson Building is home to innovative "garage labs" and additional spaces dedicated to design and entrepreneurship education.


'I Can Do This'

Two Duke University engineering students use a power drill

Duke's First-Year Design program was created by nationally recognized engineering educator Ann Saterbak.

The curriculum introduces new students to the rigor of engineering school— learning new skills related to calculations, project planning and team communication.

Research suggests that first-year students who take design courses are more likely to stay with engineering.

These students have improved self-efficacy—the "I can do it" belief that they can succeed and meet new challenges.


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

More Engineering Design at Duke

From First Semester to Senior Year


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