First-year Courses

AERSP 001 Aerospace Explorer

This First-Year Seminar introduces you to the world of vertical flight.  You will be introduced to the vocabulary that is unique to helicopters, will discuss the several vertical flight configurations, and will assess the strengths and weakness of those configurations. These discussions will be led be an experienced helicopter test pilot.  You will have the opportunity to fly a helicopter simulator and will visit a Life Flight helicopter facility, get hands-on with their helicopter and be briefed by its crew.  You will, in addition, discuss goal-setting, time management, resume-construction, character development, library skills, and other topics intended to assure success in your studies at Penn State. 

AERSP 097 Hands-On Helicopters

The Hands-On Helicopters First Year Seminar will introduce first-year students to the fascinating world of vertical flight. Students will visit a helicopter hanger, see a radio-controlled helicopter demonstration, and participate in several activities to learn about the engineering properties of rotary-wing aircraft (helicopters and tiltrotors). Each meeting period (8 periods total) will include a 75-minute instruction period followed by a 90-minute lab session.


Structures — what are they made of? Why are they constructed as they are?
Aerodynamics — how does it actually stay up?
Directional Control — how does a helicopter fly forward?
Engineering Software — what software do engineers use?
Noise — why does a helicopter go "wop-wop-wop"?
Autorotation — what happens if the engines fail?
Stability — what is it and how can a designer avoid instabilities?
History — how have these helicopters been developed and where do we go from here?

AE 124 Orientation to Architectural Engineering

Designed for students intending to major in Architectural Engineering (AE), this course is an introduction to AE with emphasis on relationships with the building industry.

BE 001 Growing Your Future

Introduce students to University life, the agricultural/biological/engineering program and profession; prepare them to succeed in academic life at Penn State.

BME 100 Biomedical Engineering Seminar

A first-year seminar designed for students interested in pursuing a career in Biomedical Engineering. Through a series of lectures, demonstrations and problem-solving sessions, the multifaceted world of biomedical engineering will be explored. Students will be: 1) introduced to Penn State as an academic community, including fields of study and research with an emphasis on Biomedical Engineering 2) acquainted with the learning tools and resources available at Penn State 3) given an opportunity to develop relationships with full-time faculty and other students interested in Biomedical Engineering 4) acquainted with their responsibilities as part of the University community 5) engaged in discussion about Biomedical Engineering and possible career paths that are available to Biomedical Engineering graduates.

CHE 100 First Year Seminar in Chemical Engineering

Designed for students intending to major in Chemical Engineering (ChE), this course is an introduction to ChE. Discussions with faculty and visiting engineers on job selection, patents, licensing, and professional ethics. 

CE 100 Topics and Contemporary Issues in Civil and Environmental Engineering

First-Year Seminar exploring a specific topic or contemporary issue in civil and environmental engineering. 

CMPEN 111 Computers and Computer Hardware

This course introduces some of the fundamental concepts, devices, and methodologies that are involved in the design and use of digital and computer hardware. Included is a look at some CAD tools and some logic design laboratory exercises. Using logic as a basic building block, the organization and design of a computer is then examined, ending in an exploration of some of the contemporary methods used to make computers faster and more efficient.  Students will be assessed through class participation and assignments.

CMPSC 111 Logic for Computer Science

This course examines the role of logic in problem solving and its application to computer science and computer engineering. Example problems will be drawn from a variety of sources, including brain teasers, puzzles, and mathematics. We will show how these problems and their solutions apply to real problems involving computers. We will also explore a number of the important areas of computer science and computer engineering including Boolean and Digital Logic, Designing Arithmetic Hardware, Cryptography and Security Programming Languages, Networking and Wireless Communication, Artificial Intelligence, and Computer Ethics.  Students will be assessed through class participation and assignments.

EDSGN 011 Explorations in Design First-Year Seminar

Engineering Design is a diverse field of study with many emerging topics and applications. The goal of this first-year seminar is to introduce students to a particular topic or set of topics related to design. The specific course topic, chosen by the course instructor, may vary each semester.  Some current topics include biomimicry, ergonomics, sustainability, international, customer needs, ideation, and design for X (where X can be disassembly, recycling, society, underrepresented groups, developing countries, environment, etc.). 

EDSGN 012 Solar Racers

Solar energy is the ultimate sustainable energy resource, for Pennsylvania and the world. Through hands-on activities, research, and case studies, students explore both the current applications of solar energy and future potential. Students build a model car powered by a photovoltaic panel, and apply engineering analysis and testing to guide the design process.

EDSGN 013 The Ethics of Star Trek

Based on the book, The Ethics of Star Trek, this First-Year Seminar introduces students to engineering ethics via the Star Trek series, from the original series with Capt. James T. Kirk, through The Next Generation with Capt. Jean Luc Picard. We will watch selected episodes of Star Trek followed by discussion and application of the ethical principles. Students will work individually and in teams to apply the lessons learned to student life and engineering practice.

EE 008 Introduction to Digital Music

This first-year seminar course is a lab-oriented introduction to the electrical engineering sub-discipline of digital signal processing (DSP) as it applies to the field of digital music. Topics to be covered in the lectures/labs include

  • the physics of sound
  • sampling and quantization of music signals
  • generating audio special effects through the use of digital filters
  • compression techniques used in digital audio
  • Mathematically synthesizing instrument sounds

In addition, current computer audio formats such as WAV, MP3, and MIDI will be investigated. No musical experience/talent is necessary.

EE 009 This IS Rocket Science

Welcome to space engineering!  Join This IS Rocket Science first-year seminar for some fun with model rockets and to get oriented toward project courses in the EE Department.  The semester starts with a bang as students team up to launch a simple model rocket.  Building on this experience, you and your team will design and build a more complicated rocket payload for an end-of-semester launch.  Along the way, you will learn how scientific payloads are built and how they are used for scientific inquiry.  You will be introduced to the Student Space Programs Lab and be invited to join other motivated undergraduates in getting hands-on experience with space-related student projects.  It all begins here.  And yes, this really is rocket science!  WARNING:  This class may require more work outside of class.

EE 010 Introduction to Ham Radio

This course will offer demonstrations and lectures to introduce the student to the world of Amateur "Ham" Radio. Additionally, this course will provide the knowledge necessary for the student to pass the FCC exam to obtain a first Ham Radio license.

ENGR 097 Engineering and Community Engagement

Penn State is big!  Exploration of available resources and the seeking of networking opportunities are a must!  The Engineering and Community Engagement FYS seeks to promote engineering student engagement throughout the university and beyond.  Students interact with practicing engineers, engineering faculty and graduate students in their intended field of study to learn more of their intended disciplines. Teams of students explore the university via field trips to: a power generation site, wastewater treatment facility, research labs, consulting engineering offices, manufacturing facilities, and the MorningStar Solar Home. Students present their experiences to the class through presentations and reports.

ENGR 097 Engineering in China

In this First-Year Seminar, you’ll learn about Chinese engineering education and practice using case studies of some big engineering projects in China such as the Three Gorges Dam, Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and the Yangshan Port.  Students are assigned into teams for a team project: “profile an engineering firm in the United States that has a huge investment in China”. Some Chinese cultural issues will be discussed in class as well. Up to six students might be selected from this course to go to China for an internship.

ENGR 097 Sustainable State

This First Year Seminar explores the meaning of sustainability and its relevance to the work of engineers. In this class, we will explore and deal openly and honestly with the following: core principles of sustainability; Penn State’s efforts to implement sustainable actions; and the realities of being a first-year student. Through class discussion, activities, and readings, you will be asked to investigate the social, economic, and environmental impacts of our dominant ways of life. We will use field trips, guest speakers, readings, videos, assessments, research, and class discussions to engage in this endeavor. We will look at what Penn State is doing to address this mega-challenge. Over the course of the semester, you will create your own definition of sustainability and explore the various ways Engineers might work to address issues of sustainability in the global community. 

ENGR 097 Success 101

A Roadmap for the Successful Student – you will learn more about the engineering profession and acquire the tools you'll need to succeed. And best of all, you'll meet other minority engineering students who share your hopes, dreams, and questions.

ENGR 100 Introduction to Engineering

This course is a First-Year Seminar (FYS) designed as an introduction to the engineering field. More specifically, it is about studying engineering, succeeding in engineering, and the engineering profession.  In this seminar you should 1) learn if an engineering career is right for you; 2) develop success skills including goal setting, time management, effective studying, working in teams, library research, and oral presentations; 3) explore engineering challenges; 4) become familiar with the University, the College of Engineering, your responsibilities as a student, and the learning tools and resources; and 5) interact with and develop a relationship with your faculty member and other students.

ESC 097 Respect the environment: ‘cool’ technological advances for clean living

Our task as modern engineers is to keep the environment clean, free of debris and highly effective in providing and maintaining productive lives of human beings. This FYS will discuss recent technological advancements focused on limiting amount of ‘waste left behind’. We will learn about living in a passive house, designing cradle to cradle materials, and how to implement circular economy in everyday life. We’ll use film clips, press releases and social media in discussing these issues. Working in teams you will design a ‘clean life’ pyramid (think about food or energy pyramid).

ESC 120 Design for Failure

Although an important facet of engineering design is to minimize the possibility of failure of a system component, there are many devices that actually protect a system by their controlled "failure". Further, some components are designed to "work" through failure. In the former situation are such devices as: a shear pin in an outboard motor driveline, a fuse in an electrical circuit, a valve actuated by heat in a sprinkler system. In the latter situation, "tab tops" allow one to open a beverage can, perforations cause the paper towel to "tear" in a prescribed manner, plasticity/elasticity allows stamped parts, such as automobile hoods, to retain their new shape following stamping.

ESC 121 Science/Engineering Fiction and the Engineering Sciences

From the times of Jules Verne, books, then movies and TV, have utilized engineering/science and pseudo-engineering, in envisioning devices which were not then available, but perhaps became so in later times. From Verne's nuclear-driven submarine to his voyage to the moon; to Mary Shelly's electrically created monster; to Dick Tracy's wrist radio (cell phone); to the warp speed of the Jedi, there are successes and failures as to predictions of what would someday be possible. These are examined and discussed.

ESC 122 Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Materials and Devices

There are many materials whose response to a particular stimulus (mechanical, thermal, electrical, etc.) is of a completely different type. For example, if a piezoelastic material is mechanically "squeezed" (stimulus) the response is the creation of an electrical signal. Birefringent (photoelasticity) materials change their optical properties under mechanical displacement. Thermoluminesent "remember" their configuration under certain environmental combinations, to which they will abruptly return when these same combinations are repeated. This seminar surveys many classes of such materials and material systems and provides examples of engineers utilizing their behavior for sensors, transducers, and actuators. Examples include acoustic refrigerators, phonograph cartridges, door openers, and stress concentration locators.

ESC 123 Catastrophic Failures

First-year seminar that explores design deficiencies through the study of case histories of a number of famous failures.

ME 101 Toy FUNdamentals

Toy FUNdamentals is a first-year seminar designed to introduce mechanical engineering design and prototyping through a product type familiar to everyone: TOYS!  This 6-week class explores the engineering design process through dissection and design, discussion and application of products that appeal to children of both genders. Projects include: prototyping, teamwork, and field-testing an original design.  This class will run the first 6 weeks of fall semester.

ME 102 Smart Lego Robots and Design

In this course, we will explore mechanical engineering technology utilizing a product familiar to all: Legos! This class utilizes Lego Robotics, a sub-group of educational toys.  By constructing Lego robots, students engage in hands-on learning, a recognized method for enriching student outcomes. This class explores the engineering design process through prototyping, teamwork, and field-testing an original Lego robot design.  This class will run the last 8 weeks of fall semester.

ME 105 Product Dissection A: Bicycles

Students are led through the disassembly, testing, troubleshooting and re-assembly of 10 and 15-speed bicycles. Routine maintenance, common problems and fundamental design principles are addressed. Also, manufacturing and design issues such as material selection, fabrication technology and reliability will be discussed. Students may supply their own bicycle, or use one from our supply.

ME 106 Product Dissection B: Household Appliances

Students will disassemble, analyze and reassemble a series of small household appliances such as telephones and electric drills. Lectures will discuss issues of design and manufacturing as well as consumer product testing. Students will conceive, design and carry out a consumer product testing program.

ME 107 Product Dissection C: The Enigmatic Engine

Students are led through the disassembly of a single cylinder lawn mower engine. Students work with faculty and student helpers to understand concepts of operation, manufacturing, and assembly. Then the engines are re-assembled and started. Guest speakers will lead discussions regarding the use of fossil fuels, design for manufacturing, and marketing.

ME 108 Hybrid Electric Vehicles

This seminar is designed around Penn State’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team. Students will learn about hybrid electric vehicles (HEV’s), the advanced vehicle technology competitions, and broader transportation energy and emissions issues in a lecture/discussion/laboratory format. Students will be exposed to the design, fabrication, and testing of advanced powertrain vehicles and other cutting-edge automotive technologies. This project-based, group-based course gives students the opportunity to become a member of one of the technical departments within the overall Penn State student team and encourages students to interact with upper-class members of that department.

ME 109 Explore Mechanical Engineering Research

Students will learn about and discuss the wide breadth of research topics in mechanical engineering and how to prepare for an undergraduate research position. Throughout the course, students will participate in tours of state-of-the-art research labs in the MNE department, interact with undergraduate students currently involved in conducting research in the MNE department, practice writing correspondence, developing short videos, and making presentations.



The School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) delivers effective engineering education through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. SEDTAPP offers a variety of programs that partner faculty, students, and industry in the study of real-life engineering problems. Our programs teach students to solve real-life problems with innovative solutions. 

School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs

213 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2952