USC Goes Beyond the Basics for Freshmen

USC takes the concept of developing freshmen to another level. Rather than simply providing freshman-level classes, USC can now count on upperclassmen who have taken the initiative to introduce their own coursework to freshmen in a fun and unique way: the freshman design challenge.

Creating the program

The design challenge is a new event for USC, and though “we are still working out the kinks, this event really gave me insight into using chemical engineering principles to solve a basic and realistic problem,'' says Aamani Ponnekanti, an incoming sophomore who serves on the professional committee for the USC AIChE Student Chapter. The program is led by upperclassmen who educate the freshmen on chemical engineering basics, control systems, modeling, and economic analysis.

More specifically, the design challenge provides freshmen with hands-on experience with chemical engineering topics. “We wanted to expose them [the freshmen] to engineering principles and how they are applied to real life,'' says Asang Mehta, the current USC AIChE President.

This year's challenge

This year the freshmen were put into teams of five with the goal of coding an arduino circuit and make a working temperature sensor, while focusing specifically on a certain problem set relating to an Engineering Grand Challenge. The students then had the opportunity to present their solutions at the AIChE Western Regional Conference.

This event developed the freshmen's skills by providing the chance early in their college careers to work in teams, troubleshoot, and solve a real engineering problem. This challenge gives freshmen a taste of the classes that they will take in the coming semesters, as well as introduces them to potential career paths they could pursue in the future. This project combined teamwork, technical skills, creativity, and project management with the end product being a useful solution to a real problem. USC has developed a unique experience for their freshmen, and I’m interested to see how it evolves next year!