Bill Eisenstein, a founding professor of the new Ex3 course suite at Drexel University, believes that there is something very wrong with what students are being taught in college. “A real education gives you the tools to understand the world as it is today,” he said. “Should you really be able to graduate college in any area without knowing the basic principles behind how a cell phone works? Or a television?”
Eisenstein hopes to address this question and many like it in his new course, “Do It: YourCell Phone,” which will be offered through the College of Engineering. The class is part of the segment “Explore. Explain. Experience.” or Ex3, which is a suite of programs that encourages students to not only learn about the world around them, but to understand how it works. The catch? The target audience is non-engineers.
In the same way that engineers are encouraged to take introductory classes in arts and humanities away from those typical of their major, Eisenstein hopes the Ex3 program will open the gates into topics that were once regarded as engineer-specific. Both he and many other faculty members from the College of Engineering cite the difficult requirements for understanding current engineering courses as the inspiration behind the new classes.
“The key thing about this collection of courses is that they have no prerequisites and that’s very intentional,” Eisenstein said. “Because of their common first year classes, an engineer can walk into an introductory course in a different engineering discipline and be able to grasp the material. But the same would not be true for a student from a different discipline.”
Offering just over a dozen courses with exciting names like “Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our World” and “In Good Spirits: The Process of Fermentation and Distillation,” the College of Engineering hopes to appeal to those students who might have never thought about the how and why of the world around them. For this reason, “Hardhat Required: How Things Get Built” is one of Eisenstein’s favorite courses being offered. “Here at Drexel, we’re exposed to more than enough construction, but I’d never really been aware of how much goes into making sure buildings stand up. It’s a fascinating process,” Eisenstein said.
Not only does the extra technological understanding make for a more well-rounded education, it makes for a better citizen as well. “Technology has become such an irrevocable part of our lives, yet there are so many aspects that the general public doesn’t understand. For example, net neutrality has become such a huge point of discussion, but how many people even realize what that means?” Eisenstein posed, referring to the Internet’s principle of providing customers with open networks that allow one to visit any site they wish freely.
Interested students are encouraged to visit the College of Engineering’s website, where they can find the full list of potential course offerings, as well as a poll where they can vote for which courses they would like to see offered each quarter. “There was a lot more interest then even what we have right now on our first write-up: so many different professors were very excited about getting to teach topics that they hadn’t quite found the right niche for yet,” Eisenstein said.
Though he’s excited about the chance to expose students to concepts and technologies they might not have learned about otherwise, Eisenstein is most interested in seeing what the students can teach him with their new and different perspectives.
“I’m an educator at heart. I feel like my role in life is to teach people, and there is nothing I love more than when I can see their faces light up after learning something new, and watch them go on to use that knowledge and do something that hasn’t been done before,” he said.
Courses are set to begin in summer term. In order to have a say in the courses offered in this program, students are encouraged to vote on the College of Engineering’s website, on Ex3 page.