Areas of Focus
Two faculty members in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) have been honored with Institute-level teaching awards from the Georgia Tech Center for Teaching and Learning.
Director of Professional Practice Dima Nazzal is responsible for project-based learning in ISyE, including the Capstone Senior Design program. She has been awarded one of two Curriculum Innovation Awards, which recognizes faculty “who are improving the quality of education at Georgia Tech through pedagogical and curricular innovation.” Nazzal specifically received the award for her development of the ISyE Cornerstone Design course.
The Cornerstone Design class – first offered in the Fall 2018 semester – is an early design course focusing on framing a problem without solving it. The course lays the foundation for design thinking using a project-based learning approach, interactive problem-solving sessions, and the goldmine of past Senior Design Capstone projects from past years that ISyE has kept organized in a database.
Nazzal has explained that the goal of the class is for students to develop, through multiple diverse projects, key design skills, such as how to develop a solution hypothesis from a vague need by methodically dissecting the problem and analyzing relevant information. Students learn that there is not one way to solve a design problem because design generally involves tradeoffs between competing objectives under uncertainty. They work in teams with a rotating leadership role, so each student experiences the challenges and rewards of being a project leader. They learn how to effectively and succinctly communicate the motivation for solving a problem and the scientific evidence supporting their design solution hypothesis.
“We realized that we need to have a proactive approach to addressing the design skill gaps we see in our students during their Senior Design projects,” Nazzal said. “Some faculty have cynically said, ‘In Senior Design, we’re throwing the students into the water to learn how to swim.’ We introduced Cornerstone Design to teach our students to not only survive the deep waters of design problems but also to skillfully navigate the turbulence as well. Cornerstone Design has a set of simple and inexpensive features that have proven to be effective and replicable. I am honored to receive this recognition, and I look forward to continue working with my colleagues to improve and innovate."
“Being the No. 1-ranked industrial engineering program in the U.S. makes ISyE a leader in curriculum development. Cornerstone Design structure and content is readily available to any industrial engineering department that is looking to expand its curriculum – and consequently their student – development,” Nazzal added.
Previously, Nazzal received the 2015 Georgia Tech Women in Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award.
A. Russell Chandler III Chair and Professor Pascal Van Hentenryck received the 2021 Teaching Excellence Award for Online Teaching, which “recognizes a full-time faculty member for strong commitment to engaged online teaching and student success.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic caused Georgia Tech to move instruction online last March, Van Hentenryck successfully pivoted his courses to the changed format. This also included shifting the Seth Bonder Camp for Computational and Data Science, offered for middle and high school students, to a virtual configuration, which he was then able to offer twice last summer.
“We tried to make the courses entertaining and offer personalized attention to each and every student, knowing they would spend most of their days in front of a monitor,” Van Hentenryck said. “We learned so many things. Of course, I am more than delighted to receive this award: It is additional motivation to keep improving.”
In winning the Institute’s Teaching Excellence Award, Van Hentenryck will be this year’s Institute nominee for the Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award from the University System of Georgia. He has also been the recipient of numerous teaching honors, including the 2020 Student Recognition of Excellence in Teaching: Class of 1934 Award.
Nazzal and Van Hentenryck will be recognized at the April 15th Faculty & Staff Honors Celebration, which will be virtual this year.