Engineering To Offer Courses for ‘Renaissance People’

Ex3, standing for "Explore, Explain and Experience," a suite of Engineering courses available to all University undergraduate students.
Ex3, standing for "Explore, Explain and Experience," is a suite of engineering courses available to all University undergraduate students.

When thinking about the new slate of engineering courses, the term “Renaissance man” comes to Bruce Eisenstein’s mind.

“Philosophically, we’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Renaissance man.’ At the time of the Renaissance, someone like Leonardo Da Vinci could know everything there was to know,” said Eisenstein, PhD, vice dean of the College of Engineering. “He knew arts, he knew science, he knew medicine — he knew everything.”

“Obviously, the world has gotten a little more complicated and specialized since then,” Eisenstein concluded with a chuckle.

With that in mind, the College of Engineering established a new suite of courses, nicknamed “Ex3,” standing for “Explore, Explain, Experience.” They’re a collection of more than a dozen courses within the college that can be taken by any undergraduate student at Drexel regardless of major or school.

With no prerequisites required, students can take courses that allow them to explore technical topics that might otherwise not have been available within their own courses of study.

“The dean of Engineering, Joe Hughes, thought that in order for someone graduating from college today to have a well-rounded education, they really should understand technology,” said Eisenstein, who, along with a special committee, has been in charge of putting the suite of courses together.

The suite includes an introduction to entertainment engineering, a look at bio-inspired design, and an investigation of automation and what that means for society and the economy moving forward.

Depending on response, the courses will begin in the summer term or the fall. It’s unlikely that they will all run at once in the same term.

The full slate of offerings, which spans multiple disciplines in the College of Engineering, can be viewed here.

Eisenstein said that many professors had nurtured ideas for the courses that they could teach to a general audience, but there “wasn’t a mechanism” for offering them.

One of the first courses added to the suite will actually be taught by Eisenstein. “Do It YourCell Phone,” or Electrical and Computer Engineering 290, is actually a hybrid of a course Eisenstein has taught engineering students for years.

“I thought about it and I realized that I could teach the principles of that class to students with no prerequisites,” he said. “These courses explain how things work today, how they operate, and the best part is that any student at Drexel can take these courses and get a good understanding of the subject matter.”

Eisenstein said it’s important in these courses to put a heavy emphasis on exploring and experience to give interested students a technical supplement to the programming in their majors.

“If you look at the best lawyers, some of the best physicians, some of the people starting businesses, many of them have started with a technological basis for their education,” Eisenstein said. “That’s the way the 21st century works.”

Interdisciplinary learning is nothing new to Eisenstein. Although he has an intimate knowledge of communication technology as an engineer, he was actually a music minor when he graduated from college and makes sure to keep up on literature.

He understands the value of reaching out for knowledge beyond your personal sphere.

To be a “Renaissance person in any century,” you must have a good understanding of the world around you, according to Eisenstein. Now, technology is irrevocably a part of our world.

“When you look at all these things besieging us right now — the environment, energy, communications — there’s a technical underpinning to all of them that a person who has not had some exposure to technology would miss,” he said. “Joe Hughes and I feel very strongly that to be educated in the 21st century means to have some technological experience. We think these courses can deliver that.”