Innovation in engineering education is getting a $300-million boost from a new undergraduate school being established in this Boston suburb by the F. W. Olin Foundation.
Olin College seems destined to be a remarkable experiment in developing a new breed of engineers. An initial core group of 30 students are spending this school year as "partners" in helping faculty design the curriculum and academic life before the school launches its first academic year in the fall of 2002.
Richard Miller, the school's president, says the institution is dedicated to addressing the forwarding-thinking agenda of the National Science Foundation and major engineering societies for a model education. Among the goals for graduates:
Rigorous background in engineering science
Broad base in liberal arts, writing, and communication
Superior computational skills
Experience in small team project design and project-based problem solving
Exposure to cutting-edge research in corporate and university settings
Firsthand knowledge of business and entrepreneurial practices
A sense of self confidence and a philanthropic spirit
Engineering design will be a central theme. "Engineering students shouldn't have to wait until their senior year to do a design project," notes Miller. Even in this first curriculum-shaping year, students—fresh out of high school—will be trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records for a device that incorporates the most technical steps to activate a clock alarm.
To accomplish the desired blend of science and liberal arts, as well as stimulate creativity, Olin has hired a prestigious faculty that includes several professors who are both accomplished artists and musicians, as well as engineers and scientists. "If you want people to be good at design, they need to develop their imaginations," says Miller.
To foster an appreciation for business issues, Olin will conduct joint programs with nearby Babson College, known for its entrepreneurship programs. It will also establish student projects with many technology-based companies in the Boston area.
Not only will Olin students benefit from a unique engineering education, but they will graduate debt free, courtesy of the Olin Foundation.