Daria Kotys-Schwartz, Ph.D.

Designing the Engineer: Curriculum and Infrastructure to Create Professionally Prepared Engineers 

Daria Kotys-Schwartz, Ph.D. Idea Forge Director, Design Center Colorado Co-Directors, Mechanical Engineering Senior Instructor, University of Colorado Boulder

Universities and other institutions of higher education across the country are being challenged to transform high school graduates into technically and professionally proficient entry-level engineers in four short, curriculum-stuffed years. Project-based curriculum reform has been instituted within several engineering programs to provide students with hands-on, ambiguous, engineering opportunities and to introduce students to professional components of an engineering career. One common model is to position project-based courses at the beginning and end of the undergraduate engineering curriculum—creating a bookend curriculum with First-Year Engineering Projects courses and Senior Capstone Design courses. Another, less often implemented strategy is design throughout the curriculum that arranges project-based design courses within each year of a student’s engineering education.

This discussion presents both project-based models as well as considerations of design space along with research highlights that support the implementation of these models with regards to student motivation and engineering outcomes. Equally important to the models of curriculum, are the resources supporting the curriculum including design space, technical support staff, and equipment to facilitate the development of the design. Our conversation will delve deeper into the integration of these resources, with discussion on the importance of carefully designed spaces to enhance design project support and the selection of staff to provide a harmonious technical guidance for students.


kotys-schwartz-200Daria Kotys-Schwartz is the Director of the Idea Forge—a flexible, cross-disciplinary design space at University of Colorado Boulder. She is also the Design Center Colorado Director of Undergraduate Programs and a Senior Instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She received B.S. and M.S degrees in mechanical engineering 
from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. Kotys-Schwartz has focused her research in engineering student learning, retention, and student identity development within the context of engineering design. She is currently investigating the impact of cultural norms in an engineering classroom context, performing comparative studies between engineering education and professional design practices, examining holistic approaches to student retention, and exploring informal learning in engineering education.