Course work: Hands-on engineering

Roger E. Susi Engineering Experience Lab


In a new class, first years dive into team projects designed to build engineering skills and confidence.

-By Hannah Jackson '24

The course: Foundations of Engineering and Programming, ENGR 130



Kurt Rhoads, PhD

Director of the First Year Engineering Experience, Associate Professor, Division of Education and Student Programs

Kathy Harper ’93, MS ’96, PhD

Assistant Director, Roger Susi First Year Engineering Experience
Assistant Professor, Division of Engineering Leadership and Professional Practice


What’s the class about?
Piloted since 2019, ENGR 130 became a required class this past fall for all first year engineering students. It exposes them to engineering fundamentals through teamwork and hands-on projects. There are about 44 students in each of five lab sections. Surveys show it to be one of the most popular classes at Case.


What do students learn?
Students learn basics of civil, mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering, combined with computer programming, data analysis and product design. The class aims to teach students how to think like an engineer, then uses team projects to put their thinking to the test.


“The class teaches students what it’s like to solve engineering problems and work with others,” Rhoads said.


How do students learn?
In addition to sitting for lectures, students cycle through a series of modules in the lab that expose them to a different type of engineering every one to two weeks. Typically, they work in teams of 4 to solve a problem or build a device, like a water filter or a heart-rate monitor. The class uses lab reports and competitions, like a water filtration race, to gauge understanding of a topic and help students practice design rationale.


Why is the course being taught now?
Before ENGR 130, many students did not take their first engineering class until sophomore or junior year. Administrators wished to introduce them to engineering principles sooner, to whet their appetites for the field and to help them to choose a specialty. A generous gift from Roger Susi ’77 made possible the Engineering Experience Lab.


Rhoads also wants students to build confidence in their engineering skills. “I get to see students’ growth, but they need to see it, too,” he said.


The first in a periodic feature that will introduce new, popular or remarkable courses at the Case School of Engineering.



Kurt Rhoads helped design the First

Year Experience Lab and co-teaches ENGR 130.

Case students start to apply engineering

skills as freshman through ENGR 130.

Engineering students often cite ENGR 130

as their favorite class.