Build a Roller Coaster? No Problem.
It's a running joke in my family that I'm taking a STEM class. I've long heard my friends rave about the iconic Dartmouth class ENGS 12, Design Thinking. So as my parents teasingly phrased it, I became an "engineer" for a term. This class was not only wildly out of my comfort zone, but it was time-consuming, frustrating, and just hard. Regardless, it's one of the best classes I've ever taken, and I can pinpoint why. I'm used to taking social science classes, where I am assessed based on a final or midterm exam. In ENGS 12, I'm evaluated on a final product that I'm proud of and want to share.
ENGS 12 is built on the premise that everyone is creative and that creativity can be learned, practiced, and strengthened. As I enter Week 6 and wrap up Project 4, I've noticed that my creativity has been harnessed to tackle larger, more pressing needs. For example, in Week 1, I was asked to divide 10 squares into 4 equal parts. Now, in Week 6, I'm building a device to bring laundry up and down the stairs but get this—without hands. I've also picked up some life skills, such as collaborating with a team (to build a four-part roller coaster) and using Photoshop (to design memes and posters). Best of all, I'm (strangely) having a lot of fun.
Throughout your Dartmouth experience, your deans, academic advisors, alums, and upperclassmen will tell you: "Don't be so sure about what you're going to study!" I always scoffed at that advice, dead set on an Economics and Chinese double major. However, ENGS 12 is making me rethink my academic trajectory. Should I be a Human-Centered Design (HCD) minor? I can't believe I dare say this, but should I take more ENGS classes? I'll ponder this decision as I stitch together my laundry backpack, but now for some final thoughts.
I've recently been going on virtual college visits, speaking about my experiences as a Dartmouth student. Chances are we'll touch on the liberal arts education, a broad, flexible curriculum that allows you to take classes outside of your major. Look at me; I'm taking an Anthropology and an Engineering class this term. Yet, I feel like the liberal arts also allows students to play around and find what they're genuinely passionate about. My high school didn't offer HCD classes. In fact, I didn't even know what ENGS 12 meant; I just randomly signed up and panicked upon reading the syllabus. Now, reflecting on a half a term's worth of work, I realize that HCD is a course of study that inspires and intellectually stimulates me.