Nadia Krook '14, 1st place, 2013 David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Every important discovery starts with a good question. With this concept in mind, one of the most effective styles of learning is 'inquiry-based learning,' where students must define a problem or issue before trying to solve it.
Lehigh Engineering emphasizes and promotes inquiry-based learning. Students study fundamental concepts in the classroom, and they are inspired to ask their own questions and shape their own discoveries once they walk out the door. Professors encourage students to turn the tables on learning and ask, 'why is this important?'
Inquiry-based learning is celebrated annually at the David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium. The Symposium, held on campus each spring, features research accomplishments of undergraduate engineering students. It also showcases the support and resources Lehigh provides students to make their impressive projects possible. The Symposium is designed to push students out of their comfort zones, beyond learning the art of research and contributing to their chosen fields of endeavor. Key to success int Symposium is the ability to successfully communicate or defend scientific and technical ideas to non-specialists.
Perhaps Geoff Brunn '07 and previous winner of the Symposium says it best: "I'm currently designing buildings as a structural engineer at Tipping Mar Associates in Berkeley, California. I find myself drawing on my experience as an undergraduate researcher quite often in my everyday tasks. Complementing those teachings from my research experience are the presentation skills I honed while preparing for The Symposium. Although both research projects and large scale construction projects can span over months or years, being able to clearly communicate your goals and ideas in a few minutes is a necessary ability in the workplace. One thing an engineering classroom won't always teach undergraduates: sometimes how an idea is communicated can be as crucial to succeeding as the quality of the idea itself."
Ultimately, inquiry-based learning teaches students to deal with the uneasy feeling that stems from the unknown, the disorganized process of exploration and discovery. They begin to learn when to trust their intellectual instincts, as well as the gumption required to admit something isn't working, tear it all down, and start again from scratch.
Such lessons are critical for success in engineering and success in life; and they are the lessons that define what it means to be a Lehigh Engineer.