New Curricular Innovations Feature Collaborative, Hands-on Learning

December 12, 2018

Highlights from the Bass Connections Annual Report

Students in Pratt gateway courses.

Supported by more than 30 gifts totaling over $52 million, Bass Connections is partnering with Duke schools to spread collaborative inquiry throughout the university. Examples include a proliferation of lab-style team-based courses, such as the Sanford School of Public Policy’s Democracy Lab, new topical foci for integrating faculty research and student experiences, such as the Nicholas School of the Environment’s Biodiversity Conservation Initiative, and a new online journal for undergraduates to showcase and reflect on their original research.

Curricular innovations graphic.

Redesign of Gateway Courses, Pratt School of Engineering

To extend the creativity and collaborative skills of its undergraduates, Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering is transforming its gateway courses for first- and second-year students. The goal is to give all Pratt students early exposure to project- and problem-based experiences as well as coursework in data science and applied computing.

Students in Pratt's gateway courses.

The new first-year program kicked off in Fall 2017 with a hands-on design course in a new 5,000-square-foot space known as the Design Pod. Working in semester-long project teams, students tackled specific needs articulated by community clients, which included Duke Gardens, the North Carolina Museum of Life & Science and the Duke Center for Nursing Discovery, among others.

Learning engineering concepts through the completion of a project offers a sneak peek into what a career in engineering could actually look like, which is not only enjoyable and fun, but can be insightful for freshmen unsure if they want to pursue engineering. I would absolutely recommend the course to other first-years! It has definitely solidified my decision to go into engineering. –Mary Gooneratne ’21

One team created a more realistic simulation device for proper intravenous injection for use by Duke nursing students. The “arm” contains veins under a lifelike material with a texture comparable to human skin.

Ann Saterbak (Biomedical Engineering) led the pilot course with Sophia Santillan (Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science). Each team benefited from the technical mentorship of a faculty member with relevant expertise.

Learn More

  • Browse the Bass Connections 2017-18 Annual Report.
  • Check out the Energy Access Project, a program focused on sustainable ways to meet the energy needs of the world’s most disadvantaged communities through Bass Connections teams, courses and faculty research.
  • Explore Bass Connections summer programs, such as Story+, a six-week summer program that supports research by teams of undergraduates and graduate mentors in the applied humanities.

Pratt gateway course photos by Jared Lazarus