Design education shifts to the fast lane

Given the rising tide of emerging technologies and global challenges in energy, health and elsewhere, we are re-inventing engineering education here at Berkeley. Our students are graduating not only with technical depth, but also with practice in hands-on problem solving, team leadership and entrepreneurship. As Berkeley students, they bring an extra dimension to their learning—a passion for the greater good.

The latest chapter in this educational transformation commenced in June, with the creation of our Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation. Through the Jacobs Institute, we will be offering courses, capstone projects and other experiential learning opportunities so that students can design, build and launch their ideas.

We’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in just a few months. We’re drawing up plans for Jacobs Hall, a suite of prototyping studios for our students. Faculty across all departments are re-shaping engineering coursework with an even stronger emphasis on experiential learning. Our own students are playing a lead role in planning a minor in design innovation, to be offered campuswide.

Our new “design innovation” pedagogy celebrates creativity, experimentation and risk-taking. These qualities are highly valued in technology innovation as well, and we have invited leading thinkers in this domain to advise us on how best to teach design.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, for example, tells us that the rise of information and access to digital fabrication are transforming learning. Learners are now able to grasp just the knowledge and tools they need to build their own solution to a problem—in real time—and iterate the solution with user feedback until they get it right.

This turns out to be a very powerful way to learn new concepts, and to see the impact that new ideas, brought to life through the integration of software, materials and systems engineering, can have in the real world. As educators, we will support this new way of learning by stepping from the stage to the sidelines and acting as coaches and facilitators.

To fully realize this re-invention of design education, we are conducting a worldwide search for the Jacobs Institute faculty director. This is a tenured, full-professor position, which can be held in any College of Engineering department. Please share the position announcement with anyone you know who can offer vision, experience and leadership to our design education initiatives. Applications are being accepted through January 2, 2014.

We are also happy to respond to any questions that you or an interested candidate may have.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies

Email Dean Sastry