Just One Question: Your Favorite Classes
We asked you to tell us what engineering classes you enjoyed the most. Here’s what you said:
ENGS 15, “Introduction to Product Design”
It focused on preparing business plans for a new product that we designed and built. I thought it had a lot of relevant skills to teach and it had a lot of entrepreneurial spin to it. We had to learn how to be team players, use creativity, and overcome challenges.
—Vicente Ramos ’95
ENGS 21, “Introduction to Engineering”
I discovered talents I never knew I had. Developed long-term relationships with faculty— Sid Lees, especially, and John Strohbehn — and fellow students — Dean Spatz, Chris Miller, and Hector Motroni, in particular. Discovered that learning for the purpose of creating is easier, more fun, and more productive than learning to pass a test, get a degree, or learning for the sake of knowledge itself.
—Frank Barber ’66
I recall our bus trip to Crotched Mountain School to visit with students with disabilities. Our teams had to come up with a project that would help them. My team selected to construct a typewriter that would produce both Braille and typed letters. We were better designers than technicians, as we were not able to produce a working prototype, although we really tried.
—William Judd ’67 Th’68
Learning engineering is a grind, but practicing engineering is fun. Having this course upfront created a vision of what I was really working for through five years at Dartmouth and two at Carnegie Mellon.
—Tom McWhorter ’69 Th’70
It taught me the very important lesson that I cannot work with everybody. It wasn’t a fun lesson to learn, but it’s one of the most important. I think about that class every time I hire someone or come into a work team.
—Kiersten Muenchinger ’93
ENGS 21 because of the entrepreneurial/creative/team components.
—Sam Winslow ’94
I loved how it covered the whole product development cycle, from identification of a need to prototype and marketing. It was a great experience so early in the major.
—Elizabeth Davis ’99
I didn’t want to be a practicing engineer, and this class really helped me apply engineering problem-solving skills to a business settings. The option evaluation, teamwork, market research, data support, and presentation skills I learned gave me a leg up at my first post-graduation job as a management consultant.
—Lindsay (Bowen) Coe ’00
I enjoyed the teamwork. I encouraged my non-engineering-major friends to take it and they all loved it, too!
—Sujan Patel ’01
The projects required innovation, and students were given the freedom to find problems and solve them in their own way. At such an early part in the curriculum for an engineer, most programs would not allow engineering students the ability to be this creative. I believe this class embodies why Thayer produces phenomenal graduates. This class, as well as ENGS 190/290, prepared me for my career as a project manager for Abbott Diabetes Care. I will be forever grateful for the lessons these classes taught me, as I still use them every day.
—Mara (Bishop) Winn Th’01
My group decided to design a blind-spot detector, which involved selecting and wiring some chips together on a board. We had no idea what we were doing and thought we were doing something pretty advanced. The next year I took ENGS 31 and realized that the whole project would have been pretty easy (with many fewer sleepless nights) if we had only known something about digital electronics.
—Kelly Cameron ’04 Th’05
ENGS 22, “Systems I”
We learned how to calculate the heat loss from a bald guy’s head in the dead of a Dartmouth winter. Professor Hans Grethlein didn’t have much hair.
—Tom McConnell ’76
ENGS 22 with Al Henning was the first class that took all of that crazy non-linear math and made it “visible.” The class mapped the theoretical formulas to the real world and showed how you could use them to predict a physical problem.
—Alinia Uy Asmundson ’96
ENGS 31, “Introduction to Digital Electronics”
I remember the synthesizer that Nik Nesbitt, Caroline Howe, and I built for digital electronics. We went to the music department and recorded several different instruments as they were played. We captured the waveforms and programmed them into digital components. Not only could we play music using the keyboard, but we were able to record, play back, fast forward, and rewind. The look of delight on Professor Hansen’s face when we presented the project is one that I will never forget.
—Brad Davis ’85 Th’86, ’87
In this class you could start out knowing absolutely nothing and end up creating some really interesting tools and toys.
—Krispin Leydon ’99 Th’01
ENGS 33, “Solid Mechanics”
I watched Professor Kennedy weigh the bridges before the competition. He ran out of weights, so he used cups of apple cider (which he had on hand for the occasion). Nothing was better than watching Leonard’s joy as he pumped up the hydraulic ram to smash our hard work to toothpicks!
—Bob Batt Th’00, ’01 Tu’06
ENGS 35, “Biotechnology & Biochemical Engineering”
This class is what jump started me on my current career path.
—Roberto Barbero ’01 Th’02
ENGS 37, “Environmental Engineering”
As an environmental lawyer for the Ohio attorney general I brought many Clean Water Act enforcement cases against municipalities. It always helped to know a thing or two about design of wastewater treatment plants. I do similar work now with the U.S. Department of Justice.
—Jim Payne ’81
ENGS 44, “Sustainable Design”
The class was filled with informal brainstorms, mind-maps, prototyping, and a lot of laughs. I continue to apply what I learned to my career in product design.
—Brian Mason ’03 Th’04, ’05
ENGS 50 [ENGS 23], “Distributed Systems and Fields”
Professor Laaspere’s class on field theory was very difficult, but it caused me to look at the world in an entirely different way. It was inspiring.
—Bill Kellogg ’73
Professor Wallis’ fields class pulled together various engineering disciplines into a unifying theme. It also made me really appreciate the beauty of math. Perhaps most important, it was in this class that I learned “there’s no partial credit in life” (his reason for giving us none)!
—Bill Rockwood ’81
Professor Sonnerup challenged you to think about how different systems use the same underlying mathematics.
—Joyce Nagle Th’90
Professor Kennedy catered the course to the students. I felt like I learned more in his class than I did in any other course at Thayer.
—Patrick Orie ’96
ENGS 51 [ENGS 33], “Solid Mechanics”
No question, ENGS 51 with Francis Kennedy.
—J. Tobias Reiley ’81
From a standpoint of fun: Professor Kennedy’s ENGS 51. From a standpoint of practicality and usable content: ENGS 67, “Digital Electronics.”
—William Loginov ’85
ENGS 52 [ENGS 26], “Control Theory”
It helped me think through problems more thoroughly and take the human element into account. We read a critique to an article and everyone in the class agreed how bad the original article must have been. We then read a rebuttal to the critique and weren’t sure what to think. It is important for people to figure out the truth on their own.
—T. Mark Jones ’84 Th’85
ENGS 56, “Introduction to Biomedical Engineering”
The instruction was on the engineering principles of current biomedical technologies — hyperthermia treatments for cancer, MRI, respiratory models. It was the best integration of academic and practical instruction.
—Kevin Franck ’92
Professor Collier gave an overview of various aspects of biomedical engineering. The most memorable moments were getting a brain MRI scan for each student and inspecting failed artificial hip and knee joints. I also liked “Physiological Control System Modeling” with Professor Daubenspeck. We only had three students in the class, and we had extreme flexibility to choose our own models. Professor Daubenspeck was enthusiastic and fostered creative thinking.
—Jan Lammerding Th’97
ENGS 61 [ENGS 25], “ Thermodynamics”
My first thermodynamics class almost took me out! Professor Ermenc knew his subject cold but had a distracting speech habit: putting in the filler word “here” every 30 seconds or so. Once in awhile he’d cross you up with a “there.” With my thermo skills and his teaching, I was grateful he gave me a D in the course. The next semester I earned one of my best A’s from him in heat transfer. Come to think of it, his “here” rate was lower in heat transfer.
—David Porter ’59 Th’60
Thermo with Professor Richter. My only regret was that I did not take his courses earlier. He was, by far, the best professor I had at Thayer.
—Logan Bullitt ’94
I liked thermo with Prof. Richter, although that was one of the hardest. I also liked building the Sterling engine in the shop. I spent three summers in the machine shop.
—Mike MacAvoy ’93 Th’94, M.D.
ENGS 62 [ENGS 34], “Fluid Dynamics”
My grades at Thayer were not strong and I semi-elected to forgo the fifth year and go directly to Navy flight training. After six years in squadrons I was sent to the postgraduate school in Monterey, Calif., where I and other entering classmates took an engineering record exam. I scored in the low 90s, and my fellow classmates, who had attended other major engineering schools, scored mostly in the 50s and 60s. The people giving the test suspected foul play, and I was called in to chat about the test. While my grades did not reflect it, I really did learn and retain a lot, which enabled me to enter the most difficult program (physics) and do quite well.
—Jim Vohr ’57
Professor Graham Wallis derived the problems for the final exam from the The Tempest by Shakespeare. Each problem was preceded by a passage of The Tempest. Then the problem was restated with specific assumptions and values (i.e., wind velocity, mass of the angel Ariel, shape of the angel’s wings, etc.). Professor Wallis ideally matched hard engineering science with a masterpiece of literature.
—William Weston ’72 Tu’74
ENGS 63 [ENGS 24], “Science of Materials”
I had a huge “aha moment” when I finally understood the 3-D structure of steel, and hence understood why steel is so much stronger than plain iron. At Thayer School I learned to think in a logical and structured way that has served me well.
—Jack Oswald ’84
With its blend of physics and engineering the course directed me toward my life’s work.
—Ken Jones ’85 Th’87
ENGS 64 [ENGS 32], “Introduction to Linear and Digital Circuits”
The professor was very good and had a wonderful sense of humor — and also took us on a hiking trip in the White Mountains.
—Bart Lombardi ’52 Th’54
My best Thayer courses were taught by George Taylor. In this course we learned the fundamentals of each part of a circuit, why it existed, and what function it performed. The final exam was fun. It was open book, and we had to explain what was happening as the current flowed through the entire circuit. Professor Taylor was good at explaining the fundamentals and always challenged us to excel. He was very approachable, understanding, and helpful.
—Charlie Schneider ’57 Th’58 Tu’58
Professor Stratton seemed to enjoy his subject and made the class enjoy it, and, consequently, I think we all learned more than we might have otherwise. Professor Stratton always had time for us if we needed help. He genuinely enjoyed teaching, and it came across to the students.
—Steve Askey ’76 Th’77
Without a doubt, Professor Stratton’s electronics class.
—Venkatesh Nagar Th’90
Professor Stratton’s classes.
—Joshua McCurdy ’99
No one loved his subject matter and the students more than Professor Stratton. You didn’t get the full Thayer experience without getting the Professor Stratton lecture on gassing up your car the day before Thanksgiving.
—Joshua Payne ’96 Th’97
ENGS 73, “Materials Processing and Selection”
We did a project where we learned to weld and study the property changes from welding on various metals. In our group presentation on our finding we learned the value of teamwork and learned to appreciate the contribution of different individuals
—David Prince ’79 Th’81 Tu’81
ENGS 76, “Machine Engineering”
The class where we had a large box of parts and had to build a robot for a competition combined practicality, theory, and amusement into one package. Incidentally, I happened to win that particular competition.
—James Rourke ’95
We spent endless hours teaching ourselves Pro/ENGINEER and working in the machine shop to get our “robo-hockey” player just right.
—Gus Moore ’99 Th’01
Professor Kennedy’s ENGS 76 was a great hands-on experience.
—Ron June ’02
Tons of work but rewarding. The combination of interesting subject material and a fantastic project made it worth it. We worked extremely hard but produced a great project.
—Ariel Dowling ’05 Th’05
Learning about the mechanical systems that surround us every day, then building a project incorporating all aspects of classroom learning into a friendly competition requiring dirty hands and innovative thinking. Throw in a superb professor, Kennedy, and there you have it.
—Dale Apgar ’04 Th’05
ENGS 100 & 101, “Structural Theory and Design I and II”
Structures with Professor Minnich: very practical, always interesting. A class I built a career on.
—Victor Macomber ’46 Th’52
While studying for the open book final exam I realized there was only one configuration of end-supported beams we hadn’t already had as a problem or class example. Preparing for the exam, I carried out that analysis. It turned out that the problem on the final was the one that I had prepared; I had only to change x to -x and copy my work. That problem definitely helped my grade.
—Harris McKee ’61 Th’63
ENGS 105, “Computational Methods for Partial Differential Equations”
Professor Lynch’s numeric methods required extensive programming and dealing with a plethora of math equations every week. I spent a whole evening just finding a bug in the program. It was fun, though, when the final result was shown in the beautiful graph. Professor Lynch made complex things simple to understand.
—Ming Qi Th’01
ENGS 116, “Computer Architecture”
Professor Linda Wilson’s class explored the hardware/software system dividing line. Usually computer scientists operate on the software side and hardware engineers on the hardware side; Professor Wilson asked us to consider both to improve our understanding of computer architectures and design skills.
—John Carey Th’01
ENGS 141 [ENGS 156], “Heat, Mass and Momentum Transfer”
Three courses leap to mind: Graham Wallis’ “Heat, Mass and Momentum Transfer,” for learning how to solve PDE’s with such geometries as the rolled roast and spherical turkey problems; Hans Grethlein’s “Experimental Design” — or how to get the most bang out of the least buck when gathering data; and “Engineering Economics,” a concise course on the time value of money in project decision-making.
—Richard Gregor Th’71
Each week Dr. Graham Wallis gave us impossible problems and encouraged us to work together to figure them out. He stimulated numerous conferences and discussions in the old “barn.” To show no ill will, he invited us to his house in Norwich for swimming and picnicking. His wife was kind enough to teach me how to make bread. Besides my very average career as an engineer and surgeon, this skill has distinguished me over the years. I also enjoyed Prof Ed “Brownie” Brown’s “Water Resources” [ENGG 110]. We designed Quabbin Reservoir and conduits to reach Boston, complete with pumping stations, etc. It made me feel like a real engineer!
—Peter Areson ’72 Th’73, M.D.
ENGS 160, “Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering”
Professor Gerngross gave each student oral interview tests.
—Brian Graner ’01 Th’02
ENGG 171/ENGM 181, “Marketing”
Engineering economics changed my entire future as I changed from a focus on surveying and construction to a focus on the financial aspects of business. I retired as the treasurer of New England Telephone Co.
—John Cogswell ’55 Th’56
Marketing with the late Professor Caroline Henderson put a different perspective on problem solving — how to look at, identify, and solve non-technical problems.
—Shailesh Chandra Th’91
ENGM 176, “Total Quality Management”
Our project allowed us to visit a company and solve a problem that they had. It was a fantastic experience.
—Heather (Bartholf) Harries Th’97
ENGG 181, “Legal and Ethical Analysis”
I used George Taylor’s engineering law for a whole career. That and his engineering economics (I proofed all the problems in his text before it was published) were the two most useful courses.
—Tom Jester ’63 Th’64
George A. Taylor taught contract law and a return on capital investment course utilizing discounted cash flow rate of return analyses. George was straightforward and emphasized only a few basic precepts in each course. In the opening lecture he would write on one blackboard the half dozen things he wanted us to retain after taking the course. I still remember his cardinal points, and use them. My classmates referred to him as “The GAT” — a play on his direct straight-shooter style and his initials.
—Bob Woolman ’57 Th’58
ENGM 183, “Operations Management”
Group activities in Professor Hall’s class made it fun, interesting, and memorable. I’ve used material from that class in several work projects. I’ve also utilized information from “Issues in Engineering Management,” specifically the content on TQM.
—Ashly Downey Th’03
Case study discussions were a welcome relief from the usual engineering lecture class, and Joe Hall did a fabulous job relating the material to actual business situations and his real-world experiences. Games and simulations were a great part of the class and made for a friendly competitive atmosphere among classmates.
—Kristian Lau ’04
ENGG 191, “Physical Metallurgy”
Metallurgy — with a great teacher, Ed Brown. I used the basics of my Thayer courses for the rest of my career.
—Alan Wright ’51 Th’52
ENGS 197/198 [ENGS 190/290], “Project Initiation and Completion”
In my fifth-year project with George Whitehead we fabricated a silicon alloy junction diode with materials we obtained from some generous companies. It was a great learning experience that helped prepare me for graduate school.
—Ralph “Dick” Spencer ’61 Th’62
ENGG 296 [ENGG 390], “Master of Engineering Management Project”
My choice: the M.E.M. project class.
—John Merhige ’94 Th’95
I really enjoyed surveying — it was as precise as we were skillful.
—Richard Livingston ’43 Th’44
My favorite Thayer class during the 1946-47 year was Professor Ed Brown on “Strength of Materials” There was excellent give and take — we didn’t just sit there taking notes. And we learned. As we approached finals we decided that memorizing the numerous formulae overtaxed our delicate brains. We petitioned him, forcefully, to allow us to use a helpful compendium of just about any formula we had encountered during the year. He reluctantly agreed, on condition that he prepare the list. Expectantly, we came to the exam. Sure enough, he had a stack of (folded) formula lists as well as the exam itself. We were pleased with our success. When we opened the list, it said only: F=ma. Professor Brown had won (as usual), and we had learned an important lesson: Stop moaning and get on with the work.
—Tom Streeter ’44 Th’48 Tu’48
My favorite course was a tutorial with Jim Browning. I had become interested in jet engine design through one of his thermodynamics course, and I came to him with a question along the lines of, “Why don’t they do such and such?” His reply began, “Well because,” and ended with, “Gee, I’m not sure. I’ll tutor you in a one-hour credit course and you can either figure out why it doesn’t work or why it is a sound idea.” We determined that the idea really would work, although the metallurgical demands due to certain heat differentials were pretty severe. The experience led to Jim Browning hiring me during my final year as a Tuck-Thayer to work on the development of his plasma jet torch, the precursor to Thermal Dynamics.
—Em Houck ’56 Th’58 Tu’58
At the time our Thayer class was marching through Cummings Hall there was not yet a discipline known as “computer science.” But, on the heels of an exceptional course on numerical analysis with Professor Tom Kurtz of Dartmouth’s math department, I decided to pursue a career in that high-tech field just unfolding. The two mandatory summer courses between our undergraduate senior year and the following graduate year at Thayer were just what I needed to cement that career proposition into place. One course dealt with digital computers and the other with analog computers, and the syllabuses for the two were coordinated—we could solve some of the same problems in two different ways. Professor Carl Long taught the digital course, and it was absolutely fabulous. I enjoyed it so much that it was one of the few courses I aced. Professor Long was a gifted teacher and a kind and patient man. He opened up the new world of digital computers and made it exceptionally attractive. Forty years of working happily in the computer industry followed for me, I was indeed very fortunate to have had Carl’s introduction.
—Peter Robohm ’60 Th’61
In George Taylor’s methods engineering course there were no right or wrong answers. The only requirement was to think “outside the box.”
—Neil Drobny ’62,Th’64
Professor Taylor’s methods engineering was a favorite class.
—Rick Van Mell ’63 Th’64
In Myron Tribus’ thermoeconomics class we learned about the value of doing a complete input/output analysis of all the transfers of material and energy across the boundaries of a system and then tying these flows to the economics of each flow. It made such complete logical sense that it has impacted much of my view of situations during the rest of my life! Things are more complex than they appear on the surface. For example, hybrid cars seem to be more economical for society than gasoline-powered cars are, but the impact of the efforts needed to make the batteries and then to dispose of them may, in fact, be more of an environmental/economic burden than the gasoline-powered car is. The class was small and the focus was on practical applications of the theory. A truly life-changing experience.
—Steve Brenner Th’64
After 40 years, I no longer remember course names and numbers. However, it is clear that one course taught by Bob Dean to the fifth-year students was a watershed for me. Professor Dean totally shaped my career with his energy, creativity, and enthusiasm. He taught us that creativity (the sort that results in patented inventions) can be learned. He was inspiring at a very personal level. Each evening before bed he dictated notes detailing the issues that he had to deal with. That helped to make his subconscious work on the issues all night. His energy seemed boundless. I would hand in a paper late in the day and find it on my desk in the morning marked up in excruciating detail in red pen. The course itself was nearly irrelevant. The contact that it created between us and Professor Dean was life-altering.
—Robert Prescott ’64 Th’67
I took only a single Thayer course after having received a double major in physics and chemistry from the College. However, I found that course so interesting that I changed my major from physics to electrical engineering at Stanford and got my Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1975. So, even though I run a Silicon Valley chip company, my engineering career began with only a single course at Thayer.
—T.J. Rodgers ’70
Professor Kennedy’s metallurgy class was great — working with steel samples, a furnace, and a tub of water. I also loved Horst Richter’s thermo class — he kept telling us how the “wapor was doing za verk.” Thermo definitely had the most interesting problem sets. I loved the bridge-building class. My group’s bridge, which I still have, won for least deflection but got dead last for predicted deflection. I guess my team was good with a milling machine but not so good with a calculator. I took a class called “Corrosion” [ENGG 190] and Professor Frost managed to make rust interesting. Fluid dynamics had to be the highlight, if only because I finally understood applied calculus.
—Doug Kingsley ’84 Th’85
Complex variables was the hardest course I ever took, dealing with things that I now only remember by name like Riemann sheets and Cauchy’s theorem. It was my favorite because of the professor, Bengt Sonnerup, who I remember fondly.
—Doug Rand Th’85
Millet Morgan’s antenna course was my favorite. There were two of us taking it. Millet, who was already retired at the time, was a lot of fun to listen to. He took us on a field trip to his property, where he had an ionospheric probe. He showed us his private antenna system, which allowed him to listen to a classical music station that broadcast from Montreal. The Morgans very graciously served us lunch on the occasion.
—Alex Hartov Th’88
I loved so many courses! Loved product design with Professor Robbie, loved working in the machine shop for thermo, machine design, intro and the project courses. Loved the camaraderie of bridge building for solid mechanics and robot building for machine design. But maybe in the end I keep coming back to manufacturing processes as the most memorable. All the field trips, seeing all the different manufacturing plants — I think about it each time I drive from the Baxter R&D building I work in to meet with some of the engineers over in the Baxter manufacturing plant down the road.
—Mariangelica Rojas ’99 Th’00