McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University

About Engineering First ®

The Goal of Engineering First®

Engineering First has three main goals:

  1. Engage McCormick’s students in engineering concepts right from the beginning of their freshman year.
  2. Establish in McCormick students the necessary concepts for doing engineering design, as an intellectual activity common to everyone with an engineering education.
  3. Engage McCormick faculty with students from the very start of their college careers.


By meeting these goals, Engineering First gives students the chance to engineer early with real engineers. This jump start gives students an advantage in future pursuits such as research and in the job market.

Innovation and Engineering First

Engineering First combines innovations in integrating course content with innovations in teaching to educate McCormick students in engineering. Engineering First introduced a new pedagogy for engineering education.

  • Integrating the math and science with engineering applications in the Engineering Analysis sequence allows students to see how to apply the theory they are learning to real engineering problems.
  • Solving problems with MATLAB helps promote computer proficiency and lets students experience the analytical rigor of programming. The MATLAB program is widely used in different engineering disciplines, adding to students' professional development as well.
  • Putting design and communication together in Design Thinking and Communication (formerly Engineering Design and Communication) lets students learn design in a comfortable environment. The communication skills help ensure that students will be able to function well as a member of a team in their future engineering pursuits.

Articles and Presentations

“Engineering First® at Northwestern University: Where We are in 2003”, by Stephen H. Carr, in Proceedings of the 2003 ASEE Conference & Exposition, Nashville, TN, June 2003.


“Engineering First® at Northwestern University”, by Stephen H. Carr, in Proceedings of the International Conference on Curricular Change in Engineering Education, Union College, November 2001.


“Redefining Communication Education for Engineers: How the NSF/VaNTH ERC Is Experimenting with a New Approach”, by P. Hirsch, D. Kelso, B. Schwom, J. Troy, and J. Walsh, in Proceedings of the 2001 ASEE Conference & Exposition, Albuquerque NM, June 2001.


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