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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Graduating engineering seniors presented their innovative projects on Design Day, a virtual event this year that was attended by 1,000+ people from around the country and abroad. Graduating engineering seniors presented their innovative projects on Design Day, a virtual event this year that was attended by 1,000+ people from around the country and abroad.

Design Day a Successful Virtual Event for Graduating Engineering Seniors

A large event that showcases innovative design projects by seniors attracted 1,000 virtual attendees this May.
By Padma Nagappan

Design Day, the largest annual event at San Diego State University's College of Engineering, showcases exciting and innovative design projects that undergraduate engineering students create during their senior year. 

The projects provide students with real-world experience in design constraints, budgets, reviews, and deadlines. Through these projects, students learn to apply and develop their critical thinking skills, recognize human and societal needs, and design novel, sustainable engineering solutions.

The SDSU News Team spoke with College of Engineering Dean Eugene Olevsky about the event which was held virtually for the first time in history.

How was Virtual Design Day this year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic? What were the challenges in making it virtual and how did your college work around it? 

We typically have 500 to 700 participants in the usual face-to-face Design Days, which includes all students who display projects, faculty mentors, staff, SDSU alumni, community participants and family members.    

For Virtual Design Day, we had 973 in the main Zoom Webinar and about 1,000 participants in all of the other student project breakout rooms. We had visitors from academia, industry, and government, as well as some visitors from abroad. A total of 85 student teams presented their projects and about 60 sponsors supported these projects.   

What stood out from this year's event? 

There were a number of milestones. This was the first time students were asked to make a YouTube video of their projects, and they did an amazing job in showing their projects virtually. Some students even received job offers after they presented their innovative projects, much like their predecessors did in years past in Montezuma Hall. 

Bringing Design Day to a virtual format was a monumental task that had to be completed within five weeks, but the College of Engineering faculty, staff and students worked as a team and we were able to successfully execute the event. It still provided our students with the opportunity to interact with industry, just as with face-to-face meetings.  

I would like to specifically mention the invaluable contributions of my executive assistant Marcie Morihiro and our IT lead William Nguyen, without whom this event would have been impossible. 

What was the feedback you received from students? Are they hopeful as they head out into the job market?

We received excellent feedback from many students and attendees. Many posted about it on their LinkedIn profiles, which was heartwarming to learn about. One attendee wrote he was drawn to the electrical engineering breakout rooms and particularly liked a circuit breaker project put together by four seniors. He noted that their video presentations were excellent, and that they walked him through their design, schematics, prototype and test findings. 

An alumnus who now lives in Virginia and was our student in the late 1950s wrote to thank us for making it accessible virtually, because it gave him the opportunity to walk down memory lane and share how college was like back then with our current students. 

By and large, our seniors demonstrated an upbeat mood and the ability to creatively conduct team work even under the presently challenging circumstances. Overall, I think Virtual Design Day added a new dimension to our experience, from both technical and organizational perspectives.