Curriculum Innovation



    Curriculum Innovation

    At Olin, we’re always tweaking, improving, and rethinking the curriculum. And YOU helped it all happen through generous donations to the Curriculum Innovation Fund and other donor-based initiatives. Investigate a few of the many innovative curricular projects your generosity funded in Fiscal Year 17.


    Next Slide

  2. Quantitative Engineering Analysis

    A bold new curricular experiment

    The faculty of Quantitative Engineering Analysis (QEA), Olin’s innovative new course combining math, physics and project-based engineering, had quite a challenge on their hands. They had been through the spring semester of the spring-fall course sequence, and needed to incorporate student feedback from the inaugural semester into their planning for the fall—including crucial insights like making sure students clearly understood the learning goals of each assignment.

    Enter the Curriculum Innovation Fund to help support faculty time over the summer of 2016 to substantially revamp the course and continue its momentum as it entered the second year of its three-year development cycle.

    Associate Professor Rebecca Christianson, who teamed up with faculty colleagues Mark Somerville (electrical engineering), John Geddes (math), Siddhartan Govindasamy (electrical and computer engineering), Chris Lee (mechanical engineering) and Paul Ruvolo (computer science) to teach QEA, says the innovation grant was critical for improving the course, which is garnering attention all over the engineering education world.

    “This important, ambitious experiment, probably the biggest experiment that has been done at Olin with the curriculum since its founding, would not be possible without funding to allow us to work during the summer months in a dedicated fashion with the whole faculty team.”

    - Rebecca Christianson,
      associate professor of applied physics

  3. Biology, Art and Technology—Together in New Class

    Course promotes ‘Creative Strength’

    At Olin, we believe creativity often begins at the place where fields come together. There are few better examples than “The Intersection of Biology, Art and Technology,” a new course that recognizes just how inextricably linked these disciplines are.

    Individual projects ranged from a musical composition based on DNA code, a scanning electron microscope project based on seaweed imagery, an algorithm that simulated the evolution of great master paintings, a documentary about the meaning of inheritance in a family, to a visual portrait that incorporated genetic sequences as image elements.

    Students in the course discovered new creative powers. “Coming into this class I never would have imagined creating some of the things I was a part of,” said one student. “That’s a really cool feeling.”

    “The goal is to provide a learning environment that enables students to move fluidly from one field to another and easily transition between thinking and doing so as to garner creative strength not possible from the perspective of each field alone”

    - Professor Helen Donis-Keller, creator of the course

  4. Assessment, Integration and Computational Biology...
    Oh my!

    Olin expands interdisciplinary offerings, sharpens assessment

    Among the curricular innovation projects funded in Fiscal Year 17, these three stand out as particularly emblematic of Olin’s interdisciplinary approach:

    Faculty Summer Institute 2017

    Computational Biology: Associate Professor Joanne Pratt (biology), Assistant Professor Paul Ruvolo (Computer Science) and Assistant Professor Sam Michalka (Computational Neuroscience) teamed up to develop a new integrated course combining biology and computer science in an engaging approach geared toward many real-world applications.

    Interdisciplinary Integration of Foundational Science and Context: This effort attempts nothing less than the development of an experimental interdisciplinary science and humanities course similar in scope to the successful Quantitative Engineering Analysis sequence. Leading the way are Professor Jon Stolk (materials science and engineering education), Assistant Professor Scott Hersey (chemical and environmental engineering), Professor Rob Martello (history of science and technology) and Associate Professor Joanne Pratt (biological sciences).

    Assessment: How do we know what we are teaching at Olin actually achieves our learning goals? Associate Professor Joanne Pratt and Assistant Professor Scott Hersey teamed up with Registrar Linda Canavan and Assistant Provost Jeremy Goodman to explore that question. Their goal: establish a new framework for assessment for Olin that could be implemented as early as 2018.


    New Equipment Ups Machine Shop Capabilities

    Thanks to donations to the Academic Equipment Fund, Olin College’s Machine Shop is welcoming its latest resident — a new water jet. The jet can cut materials up to two feet by four feet with a force of up to 60,000 psi, which is capable of cutting through four inches of steel and seven inches of granite. The previous water jet was well loved and well used by students in Senior Capstone Program in Engineering, Mechanical Prototyping and the student clubs to make parts. The new model, which weighs just under 4,000 pounds, can now cut thicker and bigger pieces of materials than before. Also added? A Terrain Follower, which allows the water jet to automatically cut all parts from materials with irregular or warped surfaces.

    “It is an incredible honor that donors would enable us to purchase this water jet. These types of purchases are once-in-a-lifetime for Olin, which makes this purchase even more special. We are excited to show the community what this water jet can do.”

    - Senior Lecturer Daneila Faas, director of design and fabrication operations

  6. Inspiring Transformational Education

    Donations Help Collaboratory Fulfill its Unique Mission

    Private donations are crucial to the work of the Collaboratory, Olin’s multifaceted effort to advance educational innovation. In Fiscal Year 17, donors funded a number of significant initiatives to further this distinctive mission.

    The ongoing Argosy fellowship brought to Olin two scholars per semester to immerse themselves in the Olin faculty experience; a grant from Boeing supported the important visitor program, which brings 3 – 5 institutions to campus each week to experience Olin’s unique culture and spark ideas.

    In addition, the Kern Family Foundation expanded the capacity of the Collaboratory by supporting its transformational work with engineering and other educators. Some of the Collaboratory’ s most impactful work was done at the signature Summer Institute, during which 70 faculty from institutions around the world traveled to Olin’s campus to work on designing student-centered learning experiences. That the Collaboratory is catalyzing change is unmistakable.

    “You are doing remarkable and innovative things here at Olin, and I am inspired!” stated one Summer Institute participant. Another said, “I can’t wait to see what our team does with this new set of tools and knowledge.”


    “We are thrilled, encouraged and grateful that there are people out there who understand our work and want to further it.”

    - Sharon Breitbart, Director of the Collaboratory