Toby Cumberbatch

Professor of Electrical Engineering

EID101 Engineering Design and Problem Solving

Course Description:

EID 101 is one of the most important introductory courses at The Cooper Union. It provides a broad introduction to the varied skill sets required by effective engineers, while immersing students in a non-traditional, student-centered learning environment. The complexity and interdisciplinary nature of the significant challenges facing humankind require educators to revolutionize their approach to teaching students. In this class, a holistic approach to the engineering design process is adopted, emphasizing the often-conflicting demands of scientific, societal, environmental and sustainable requirements.

Other key components of the course include an introduction to working in teams, leadership, workshop safety, prototyping skills, written and oral communications, intellectual property, information gathering and evaluation, and library usage. A writing fellow is assigned to each section to provide support, workshops, and consultation on writing, reading, listening and speaking issues.

 The only way to really understand the engineering design process is complete immersion in a real project. The class formulates and implements its own ideas—each student is actively encouraged to take risks by sharing their ideas and concerns. Technical compromises are required to satisfy the resources available; design compromises required to accommodate different ideas. Through this dialog, students learn that teamwork is needed to reach consensus; they learn to be a good listener and the role of critical feedback—however harsh it may appear to be. Most importantly perhaps students comprehend that learning through “failure” is a critical component of “engineering”. Engineers have to make things “work” and not all ideas “work”. Students gain the confidence to voice their own opinions and ideas and to receive critical feedback—the information exchange that drives iterative design. The roles of faculty are those of an agitator, a mediator, the devil’s advocate, a champion when needed, intervening only to keep the conversation on point.

Students are required to attend, and actively participate in all classes. To aid documentation of their progress, each section will design and maintain a publicly accessible website describing their design process, key activities and achievements. Outside regular class hours, each student is required to complete a short course and pass an examination in workshop safety. A short course on the principles of electronic circuit design, construction, troubleshooting and evaluation is being run for the first time.

Student performance is assessed through class participation, written submissions and oral presentations throughout the semester, and the mid-term and final multimedia presentations from each section to the rest of the class. The course concludes with a formal written report from each section. In a sense, student performance is based upon failure—what was learnt from the event, how was the outcome used to move forwards and how well was the process documented. From the outset, the class needs to understand that failure to achieve goals set at the beginning of the course is not an indicator of poor performance. A logical progression through, and good documentation of the ups and downs of the engineering design process is the outcome sought.

Last but not least, engineering is all about people—engineers do not work in isolation. Throughout the engineering design process, materials usage, manufacturing processes and costs, delivery to the end user and end-of-life must all be taken into consideration. Good engineering designs satisfy a very broad cross section of criteria. But in the end, a design is only useful if someone else will pay you for it—in essence, good engineers should be natural entrepreneurs!


Contributions to Professional Component:

Introduction to the design process and its application to real-world problems

Effective participation in teams and an introduction to leadership skills

Research methods and their application to real-world problems

Communication of technical information through different media

Critical thinking skills


G. Voland, Engineering by Design, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004


Class Hours:

 Tuesday: 11am – 12pm                                                                                                        Thursday: 1pm – 3pm


Course Objectives:

Develop a systematic and scientific problem-solving methodology

Develop critical thinking skills

Gain an appreciation of design aesthetics and the engineering design process

Learn how to handle and use simple tools and develop basic workshop skills

Learn how to identify electronic components and build electronic circuits

Learn how to seek, gather, evaluate and organize information

Develop effective technical communication (oral and written) skills with a variety of media

Learn how to work in a team, understand team dynamics, manage and organize your time

Develop an awareness and appreciation for the societal, legal, ethical and environmental responsibilities of engineering

ME Safety Workshops:

The need to strike the appropriate balance between virtual and physical design techniques and manifestation has long been considered a critical engineering skill. This balance requires that students gain a minimum expertise with hand and power tools to complement the theory learned in concurrent classes, while preparing them with the physical experiences necessary to understand the theory taught to them in upcoming courses.

Students in EID 101 are required to schedule time to take the ME Design Studio Orientation and Safety Exam administered by Cooper Union staff who will supply students with reading materials explaining the laboratory safety practices and policies, hours of operation, types of allowable projects, and the different tools and machines available to students to build their projects. Prior to the test, Cooper Union staff will provide a workshop orientation and demonstrate the use of different machines.

After successful completion of the examination (a mandatory requirement to pass EID 101), student hours in the Design Studio and Central Machine Shop will be logged for the duration of their career at Cooper Union. The experience gained through logged hours and a series of subsequent proficiency tests administered by Cooper Union staff will give students the privilege to use different machines in the Studio with appropriate supervision. Students can ultimately be certified as teaching assistants and paid supervisors with the appropriate training.


Introduction to Electronic Components, Circuit Design and Assembly:

Whether you be a mechanical, civil, chemical, general or electrical engineering student, few would disagree with the assertion that electronics are everywhere. Automobiles, once the domain of mechanical engineers, now share their engine compartment with a plethora of electronic sensors and control modules; the built environment is closely monitored and its behavior recorded with arrays of wireless sensors and laser beams; health care uses systems of biosensors to identify problems before they lead to a crisis. Virtually all installations involving chemical reactions, be they coal fired power stations or pharmaceutical production lines, incorporate thousands of electronic sensors and integrated circuits.

For these reasons, we believe that that is important for each student to be exposed to the building blocks of electronic circuits—their inputs and outputs, methods of assembly and simple debugging. Under the direction Mr. Dino Melendez, each pair of students will build a circuit comprising signal inputs derived from electronic sensors, a simple signal processing unit comprising one or more transistors and integrated circuits to drive an external device.

Assessment of Student Progress towards Course Objectives:

Class attendance is mandatory: you must get prior approval from your instructor to be absent from class – (for whatever reason).

Participation in the class and your team’s engineering and class activities

Performance in class assignments: written exercises and oral presentations

Peer and Self-Evaluation

Contribution to:

     Website maintenance

     Group Presentations: Midterm and Final

     Final Written Report


Guest Instructors:                          

Michael Schaff, Supervisor, Student Machine Shop, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Julie Castelluzzo, M.S., M.S.L.S., Electronic Services Librarian (

Gwen Hyman, Ph.D., Director, Center for Writing and Language Arts

Carol Salomon, M.S., M.S.L.S., Engineering and Science Librarian (

Etai Lahav, B.E., J.D., Associate, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, New York, NY

Dino Melendez, Technician, Department of Electrical Engineering

Jim Elliott, BA., M.F.A., Director, Teacher, and Producer, New York, NY

Christopher Nicholls, Ph.D., Center for Writing and Language Arts


Recommended Reading:

D. F. Beer and D. A. McMurrey, A Guide to Writing as an Engineer, 2nd ed. New York: Wiley, 2005.

S. C. Florman, The Introspective Engineer, 1st ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

W. Kamkwamba and B. Mealer, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, 1st ed. New York: William Morrow, 2009.

R. B. Landis, Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career, 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Discovery Press, 2000.

Make Magazine, O’Reilly Media,

D. A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things, 1st Basic paperback. ed. New York: Basic Books, 2002.


Related Texts:

M. Alley, The Craft of Scientific Writing, 3rd ed. New York: Springer, 1996.

R. A. Day and B. Gastel, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, 6th ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006.

C. L. Dym and P. Little, Engineering Design: A Project-based Introduction, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley, 2004.

G. E. Dieter, Engineering Design: A Materials and Processing Approach, 3rd ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

A. R. Eide, Engineering Fundamentals and Problem Solving, 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008.

G. Heckman and D. Ingre, Thomson Engineering Guide to Web Research 2007-2008, Toronto: Thomson Learning, 2008.

D. Ingre, Engineering Communication: A Practical Guide to Workplace Communications for Engineers, Australia; United States: Thomson, 2008.

S. Moaveni, Engineering Fundamentals: An Introduction to Engineering, 3rd ed. Toronto, Ont.: Thomson, 2007.

G. Pahl and W. Beitz, Engineering Design: A Systematic Approach, London; New York: Springer, 1996.

H. Petroski, To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, 1st Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.

H. Petroski, Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering. Cambridge

England; New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

H. Petroski, Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design. Princeton University Press, 2006.

A. E. Samuel and J. Weir, Introduction to Engineering Design: Modeling, Synthesis and Problem Solving Strategies, Oxford; Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999.



T. J. Cumberbatch

1.87        08/05/2014