Sean Zimmermann reports:

Since 1994, first-year Columbia engineers have taken Gateway Lab, formally “ENGI E1102: Design fundamentals using the advanced computer technologies.” But starting next year with the Class of 2015, Gateway will cease to exist in its current form.

Bwog has learned that starting in Fall 2011, instead of Gateway, freshmen engineers will take a survey course covering all the engineering disciplines. Under one possible plan, instructors would give weekly engineering departmental presentations and teach basic engineering skills, like interpretation of experimental data. The new course would potentially include lab work and reserve a single week for studying engineering management. But one thing is for sure: the new course will be led by the beloved David Vallancourt of Electrical Engineering and Fred Stolfi of Mechanical Engineering; Jack McGourty and Promiti Dutta, the previous instructors and pioneers of the Gateway curriculum, will no longer direct the class.

The curriculum and specific details for the course are still being drafted, but this change has officially been cleared by administration officials. Professor Vallancourt told Bwog, “One of our most important guiding principles is to focus on exciting the incoming students about real engineering. We will try as best we can to make this course fun, informative, and useful in subsequent engineering studies.”

We have not received information about whether this decision to restructure such a pivotal aspect of the freshman engineering curriculum has been clearly presented to accepted SEAS ‘15ers, who have until May 1 to decide if they want to come to Columbia.

Bwog will continue updating this story as we learn more.

Update, 4/27 10:25 pm: After contacting the Office of the Dean, the following statement was released to Bwog by the Dean. The Dean’s Office emphasizes how the plan outlined above is only one option currently being considered, and people familiar with this possible solution reiterate that it is not intended to merely be a “light” survey course.

As part of our regular process of evaluation for every class, we have been looking at the Gateway class, assessing input from students, alumni of the class, and from faculty involved to ensure the course curriculum fits the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s engineers and is consistent with our educational philosophy. As we refine the course content to meet these needs, we will build on the pillars of Gateway, its socially responsible engineering and applied science projects and rigorous pedagogy integrating the engineering fundamentals with a project-based, hands-on experience that will enable our students to lead the way in developing solutions to the challenges society will ask them to address in their career.