Editorial Notebook

Addressing issues within IED

Introduction to Engineering Design is a class that many at RPI are unfortunately familiar with. It’s a class that, and this is despite speaking with several different class years of attendees, I have yet to hear a kind word about through the proverbial grapevine.

As many know, IED is a class that theoretically models the conditions of industry and has a group of five to seven undergraduates build an invention from the ground up, in addition to what I would call shenanigans (i.e., a mini project, some quizzes, that kind of thing). In principle, this class seems like a lot of fun. I for one was excited to attend it before the reality of the class sunk in. As soon as reality did rear its ugly head, however, I quickly came to dislike my Monday and Thursday 10–noon timeslot.

The class is split into two major sections, a mini project and a final project, each worth a significant percentage of one’s final grade. The mini project takes place during the time when you are first being taught the design process, and the deadline timeline requires that you build your device then backwards justify all of your choices and decisions to curriculum you’ve only just learned. The final project is the complete opposite approach, as it requires you follow the entire design process you have been taught, but all in all, in probably half of the time you would need to actually do it.

As if the ridiculous time frame weren’t enough, the rubrics given to you for your major deadlines would be a joke if they didn’t influence your grade. They cover maybe half of what the professors expect, as the professors constantly add dimensions to their requirements for each presentation and report at the beginning of each work day.

Through these factors, the terrifyingly bad timeline, awful rubrics, and constantly shifting requirements, the course betrays at best only the most cynical view of the requirements of industry. The premise that the class is supposed to be representing what it is to be working in industry is also almost comically flawed. This class took up easily 70 percent of my efforts this semester, despite two other classes, a job, my work here at the paper, and issues in my family. In industry I would be paid for my efforts, not be paying tuition so I could be told my responsibilities to my other classes, job, this paper, and my family are not excuses.

It would also be one thing to merely have this on my plate, but my family has been going through some very hard times recently, and when I approached my professors with this information—information that not even my friends had at the time—instead of working with me they simply triggered the early warning system in my name, passing the buck along to someone else instead of just working with me like I was after. And later when approached, I was told that there are no excuses in industry and that from the perspective of a professor, my priorities needed to be on the class and not elsewhere, this in reference to having to miss a group meeting for work.

I’m not writing this editorial to call out any single professor; while I may take personal issue with some, it’s not my intent to drag that dirty laundry out in this forum. I’m writing this to try and bring to light the serious issues with this class. It takes up far too much of its student’s time on an incredibly difficult project for the average second year student, and its timeline needs some very serious re-evaluation, all of which is in addition to its flawed premise. If any student were in a position like mine, with serious personal concerns in addition to the jobs many of us have above and beyond our already-intense course loads, IED is a back-breaker.