In the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, undergraduate students are expected to declare a major in spring semester of their first year. However, with little exposure to the different engineering majors, many students enter a major without a reasonable understanding of their new disciplines. In an effort to allow underclassmen to make more informed decisions within the engineering program and with funding from the Jefferson Trust, engineering students developed the Daedalus Project. Led by program director Jean Salac, a fourth-year Computer Science student, Daedalus aims to aid students in discerning their academic interests through a network of hands-on, project-based seminars led by upperclassmen across the engineering departments.
When the Trust asked Jean how the idea for the program arose, she explained “The Daedalus Project was largely a result of my confusion and frustration as a first-year when I could not decide which major to pick and felt that I did not have enough resources. I soon found that other students felt the same way, so in the spring of 2015, we decided to start the Daedalus Project to help future first years with their major decisions.” Daedalus captures the spirit of student self-governance on Grounds, as students recognized the issues within the current engineering system and took active measures to correct them. The seminars are student-led sessions where first-years get to hear the honest perspectives of upperclassmen deep in their majors.
Members of the Daedalus team are excited to expand the program. Salac reported that over 150 students have attended seminars and that “with funding from the Trust, we hope to grow our seminars to include more interesting and innovative hands-on projects. We also hope to expand beyond in-class seminars and include lab and company tours as well.” By enabling students to explore companies and labs, first-years can develop a better understanding of the various majors in applied settings. Students can learn about the professions tied to each major, and how different engineering disciplines can serve as a platform for launching a career. The Trust is excited to see this program grow with greater funding, impacting more first-years annually.