Transforming how engineering students learn design through a client-focused, project-based, experiential approach


Unprecedented growth in undergraduate enrollment and the grand challenges facing society means the UC Davis College of Engineering must adapt to a new breed of entrepreneurial students that must be prepared to adapt to any and all new technologies and produce results.

We must take advantage of this opportunity to position UC Davis as a world-leader in engineering design education by teaching our students how to test ideas and create products, whether they are physical or digital, along with the core aspects of creating a venture and running a business. Coupled with the rigor and technical foundation provided by our engineering departments, the new Engineering Student Design Center (ESDC) will train students to turn ill-defined problems into creative solutions that hit the mark.


Good design is customer-driven and the new ESDC at UC Davis will be the perfect environment for students to meet with clients and have a real-world design experience that encourages learning-by-doing and learning from failure.

The ESDC will engage cross-disciplinary student teams to hone their talents as “consultants” that can translate their clients’ needs into a successful, innovative product, service, or venture. This facility will serve as the nexus for our senior design courses, student clubs and enterprises. It will be supported by cross-campus and industrial partnerships and bolstered by high-visibility events such as hackathons and our Creator Challenge series.

We will engage and mentor our students in all phases of the design process from needs assessment, project framing, prior art-research, prototyping, evaluation and testing, to creating business models and fundraising for their own venture. Students will be immersed in the ESDC experience throughout their undergraduate education for a transformative professional experience that will set UC Davis students apart throughout their careers.


“I just met a fresh graduate from UC Davis’ College of Engineering. She was working like a seasoned, professional consultant. What’s going on at UC Davis and how do we get in on it?”

When students work on real-world projects they care about, for actual clients, they have the intrinsic motivation necessary to excel in their education. Women and traditionally underrepresented groups will be drawn to and thrive in the ESDC environment of competitive collaboration.

By producing students that both startups and Fortune 500 companies seek, our facilities and approach will attract the most talented students and faculty, and grow industrial partnerships. Meeting a UC Davis ESDC student, you will be blown away by their ability to hit the ground running.


Engaging students with clients at the ESDCState of the Art Facilities