The Roger E. Susi First-Year Undergraduate Engineering Experience

students working on a project

New hands-on program teaches first-year students engineering problem solving

The Roger E. Susi First-Year Engineering Experience will take incoming students out of the lecture hall and into a lab environment in their first two semesters at Case Western Reserve University. The new signature, introductory program, which has been in a pilot phase since spring 2019, will continue to expand and roll out to additional students over the course of the next year.

One course (ENGR 131B) focuses on hands-on individual and team projects, combined with data analysis and programming instruction. Each project is designed with a co-instructor with expertise from a different engineering field. The other course, still in development, will broaden even further as the students work with a community partner and Case Western Reserve’s innovation center, the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box], on real-world problems.

Program Goals

The Roger E. Susi First-Year Engineering Experience is built on goals to help our first-year students not only experience different aspects of engineering, but also to build skills that will prepare them for future careers. These include:

  • Learning problem solving through hands-on projects  

  • Working in teams

  • Written and oral communication

  • Data analysis

  • Programming using MATLAB

  • Learn about different engineering majors and careers

Program Courses

The Roger E. Susi First-Year Engineering Experience consists of two courses:

  • ENGR 131B: Introduction to Engineering and Program 
    This course consists of six hands-on, discipline specific projects, with a focus on general skill building, computer programming, and friendly competitions. Each module is co-designed by a professor in one of our engineering departments. For example, students explore civil and environmental engineering by designing and testing a water filter and sensor. In another, they learn about biomedical engineering by building on a heart rate monitor.

  • USNA 289T: Community Problem Solving 
    Currently in development, the design course is focused on a single, open-ended design project conducted in partnership with a community partner. The interdisciplinary project includes skill workshops aligned with the project, and an opportunity for students to contribute to solutions for real-life engineering problems in their community.

Roger E. Susi Laboratory

The first class of students began using the new Roger E. Susi Laboratory,  a work space specially designed for this program, in August 2020.

Full view of the Roger E Susi lab
The Roger E. Susi Laboratory

Lounge space in the Roger E. Susi Laboratory
Student lounge space in the Roger E. Susi Laboratory


Faculty Director

Kurt R. Rhoads, PhD, PE
Associate Professor
Division of Engineering Leadership & Professional Practice 
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering