Problem: The curriculum of the university, which is located in Massachusetts, in the USA, has proposed, since its inception in 1997 and foundation in 2002, a new way of teaching engineering as an academic discipline. This approach was devised to meet the new demands that were arising, based on studies in various sectors that revealed that an engineer should be adept at teamwork, collaborative, have good communication skills and know how to understand problems that are not always clear. These studies showed that the engineer should also be able to resolve these problems through solutions that can be adapted to a variety of situations, can be implemented in practical terms and are sustainable.
Solutions: The teaching methodology espoused by the college is diametrically opposed to that of traditional universities. First, students test their ideas, hands-on, only studying the theory behind them afterward. This interdisciplinary curriculum is structured on students' capabilities and based on projects in order to promote students' independence and learn autonomy. Within this context, professors act as mentors that guide the learning process.
Alternatively, many activities are conducted in groups so that students can learn teamwork. Students are also given challenges, which can have various solutions, in order to better understand problem solving. In addition, all of the students live on campus, which helps them to develop the sense of living what they study on a day-to-day basis.
Career options include electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and bioengineering, in addition to information technology, design, material science, robotics and systems engineering.
Outcomes: By performing the hands-on lessons first, students gain an appreciation of the need to study the theory that underlies their real-world applications. As such, students give greater value to the theoretical aspects of learning. Contrary to traditional engineering graduates, where one third of former students gravitate to financial markets, the majority of Olin College graduates earn leadership positions at technology-oriented companies. Some of them even open their own businesses. The university's students consistently rank very high on national and international academic evaluations.