Dynamic and Interdisciplinary
The curriculum for this two-quarter course fulfills requirements in both engineering design and written communication and is team-taught by faculty from the McCormick School of Engineering and the Cook Family Writing Program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. This interdisciplinary approach epitomizes the strengths defined in Northwestern’s Strategic Plan and has been recognized nationally and internationally as a model in innovative education.
Projects and Topics
The DTC curriculum is continually refreshed by new projects and rotating faculty. DTC’s collaborations with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and other local non-profit organizations, such as Lambs Farm and Kids in Danger, help students appreciate the social impact of engineering.
Every quarter, new and relevant topics like sustainability, engineering ethics, and global awareness are introduced to students. Completion of the first quarter is a prerequisite for the second quarter course.
Authentic and Experiential
In DTC's first quarter, students typically solve problems for people with special needs, such as rehabilitation or special educational recreation. In the second quarter, projects address a variety of problems in healthcare, industry, and education.
A unique feature of DTC, as compared to freshman design courses at other universities, is that our projects are submitted by real clients and generally involve interaction with real users. Students learn skills that span designing a product for a person and telling a story to an audience. They learn that good communication leads to better design.
Past project examples include:
- Prosthetic fitting solutions for upper-limb amputees
- A redesign of the pneumatic cylinders used in airplane emergency systems
- A bird deterrent using smart memory alloys (SMAs)
- Special booties for penguins at the Shedd Aquarium to help heal their sore feet
Professional Skills & Experience
Working in teams, students learn that both design and communication are iterative, context-centered, problem-solving processes. All communication deliverables are tied to the project work.
Students advance their experience with professional communication genres, technologies, and conventions, including:
- Sketching and brainstorming to explore the design space
- Creating engineering drawings for supervisors and prototyping specialists
- Writing technical reports and proposals for clients
- Preparing slides and posters for project fairs and public presentations
DTC’s team-based approach, broad scope, and public events bring together diverse members of the Northwestern community and raise awareness of the importance of design thinking.
DTC courses are held in studio classrooms in the prominent Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, centrally located on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Its resources are shared by the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Segal Design Institute, and the McCormick School of Engineering. Thus from the beginning of their academic career, DTC students have the opportunity to interact with upperclass and graduate students in Ford's classrooms, hallways, and the state-of-the-art Prototyping and Fabrication Lab.