Design and Innovation

My Favorite Course in General Engineering

Sofia Chavele-Dastamani, Class of 2022.

Name: Sofia Chavele-Dastamani
Country: Greece
Year: Class of 2022
Major: General Engineering, Biomedical and Health Systems
Course: Design and Innovation

This course introduces students to innovation philosophies and practices around the broad realms of the iterative design process, with the majority of the course revolving around hands-on team-based projects. The course culminates in a final innovation and prototyping challenge, the outputs of which are presented in a public exhibition.  

Why this course?

I had heard incredible things about the course from previous engineering students, with reviews describing it as the course that made them sure they wanted to become engineers. Professor Matthew Karau is well-known for his industry experience and his "Engineers Don't Make Things!" motto among our student community, so I was beyond intrigued to take it.

Can you share some experiences from this class (pre-COVID-19)?

A typical day would start with a morning lecture in a large auditorium, where we would hear about our tasks and new projects. The class revolved around three main projects at that time.

1. The “Bike Light Challenge”, where we had to fully design and prototype a new gadget. My team created a thermometer gadget that monitors and reports temperatures in the UAE, using Arduino and 3D printed enclosures we had designed ourselves.

2. The “Redesigning Street Food Challenge”, where we were challenged to examine how street food is prepared, and prepare our own recreation of the Regag crepe — a popular street food in the UAE — in front of our class. My team reinvented the Regag dish to include culinary specialties from all of our home countries.

3. The “Good Question” final project, in which we tried to pose a good question, a key aspect of the innovation process, and write a report on how we would approach this challenge. We posed the question: “How can we address antibiotics misuse and build better behaviors around antibiotic use in an international campus setting?”

The course is less of a traditional course with a couple of teaching hours daily, and more of an immersive, bootcamp-like experience in innovation and engineering.

In the afternoons, we had optional sessions where we would hear from guest speakers. Previous speakers included the chief scientist in Lockheed Martin's research and development division, leaders from Dubai's applied research center R-Lab, investors, and other global industry leaders in the engineering and innovation sector.

The most exciting days would involve day trips to participate in conferences and visit labs and incubators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We experienced innovation first-hand in the UAE which helped to inspire our own creations in the course and in our engineering careers.

What do you love about the class?

As an engineering major, I often wondered what my career will look like after graduation. There is a big gap between learning how to build a circuit or a system and actually going out there and contributing to innovation as an engineer. Professor Karau's lessons on the importance of efficient, human-centered, aesthetic engineering design, on approaching innovation holistically, and his famous motto of "Engineers Don't Make Things!" have followed me along every step in my research and engineering career.

This course opened my eyes to the limitless fields I can apply my engineering degree to, offered me a pragmatic view into the innovation process, and introduced me to new global engineering challenges.

What is Professor Matt Karau like? 

He's among the most inspirational and pragmatic people I have had the honor to be taught by at NYUAD. He cares about educating engineers that can succeed in industry and be true innovators, and not just teaching material. 

Do you have any tips for choosing a major?

  1. Try to find your developmental sweet spot: what you are good at, what others value in you, and your personal passion. 

  2. Don't be scared by requirements or long study hours, or your own preconceived ideas about a specific field.

  3. Stay curious without limiting yourself to only taking courses in your major. 

  4. Think about what you want to do after graduation, how you want to use your NYUAD education, and what challenges you want to tackle, and think about your choice of a major that can help you get there. 

  5. Use your first few courses to experiment, and remember that it's okay to go back to the drawing board if you feel like something is not for you. 

  6. Always keep in mind that your education and your NYUAD experience is so much more than just your major. 

Why NYU Abu Dhabi?  

I always knew I wanted something different from my college experience. Between my university choices in the US, the UK, and my home country Greece, nothing compared to the global experience that four years at NYUAD would offer me.

As a student interested in interdisciplinary research and academic inquiry, getting to customize my engineering degree around the challenges that intrigue me the most was an unparalleled opportunity to me.

NYUAD merges world-class education with incredible opportunities to study globally and truly tailor my education to the issues that I care about the most.