My Favorite Class: Fahed Shakil’s Junior/Senior Engineering Clinic

Exterior shot of bridge connecting Engineering and Rowan Halls.

Today we feature Fahed Shakil, a senior Computing and Informatics, Psychology and Liberal Studies triple major. Fahed has concentrations in Cyber SecuritySociology and Applied Computing, and he earned CUGS in Management Information Systems and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Fahed is a first-generation college student and commutes to Rowan from Gloucester City, NJ (Camden County). 

What was the name of your favorite class at Rowan?

My favorite class at Rowan is my Junior/Senior Engineering Clinic.

What department was the class in?

The class is in the Engineering Department

Fahed poses in a suit with his cords.

Who taught the class when you took it?

Professors Karl Dyer and Mario Leone were my professors for my Junior/Senior Engineering Clinic.

Tell us a little about what the class is.

The class provided students the opportunity to gain and apply knowledge regarding human-centric product development utilizing industry-standard practices. Students were taught how to communicate with clients, understand their vision, needs, and wants, manage expectations, develop/maintain comprehensive documentation, and create a product with the main focus being to ensure client satisfaction.

As a Computing and Informatics, Psychology and Liberal Studies triple major, how did you get into a Junior/Senior Engineering Clinic?

I am not an engineering major, nor do I have any prior formal education in any field of engineering, nor would I satisfy the requirements needed to gain admission into Rowan’s engineering program, let alone be a part of a junior/senior level course. However, over the past four years, I have worked alongside a wide variety of engineering students and observed their world as a member of the Apprentice Engineering Team at Rowan, aka the A-Team, who Mr. Leone and Mr. Dyer manage together to efficiently support various initiatives and operations within the College of Engineering.

I was trying to figure out what to do during my 2019 summer vacation and then I remembered that Mr. Leone and Mr. Dyer were going to be teaching a summer course about project management, human-centric design, and providing students the opportunity to work on projects pitched by clients with the similar expectations as students would experience in a job setting. This sparked my interest out of sheer curiosity of wanting to learn things outside my comfort zone and academic discipline.

About 30 minutes before the start of the first day of the course, I went to Mr. Leone’s office, and luckily Mr. Dyer was present as well. At that moment I asked Mr. Leone and Mr. Dyer if I could sit in on the course throughout the summer and just observe the discussions that were going to take place and try to learn some of the content they were teaching. They allowed me to sit in on the course, and throughout the summer I had a wonderful experience.

Materials in an ECE lab.

Part of what made the experience that made it so memorable was that the ever-looming stress of getting a good grade for the class was non-existent as I was not being graded. The learning was purposeful, applicable to various aspects of life, and downright fun. I was exposed to various software I had never used before, engaged in eye-opening group discussions, and was able to observe the process engineers go through in making an idea into a reality while focusing on a human-centric design.

Share with us a few details on why this class was interesting.

This is a course that you cannot describe the experience you have in words that would fairly justify it. It is something unique, and the real value of the learning that takes place is really evident if you are a part of the A-Team. Based on the description of the class, it seems pretty simple, but there is more to the class than what meets the eye. This class was interesting because the professors stripped away the “status quo” style of teaching. Instead, they opted for a more free-flow style of self-directed learning, similar to the environment that students would be in when they enter the workforce, while still having support from the professors as needed.

It was always a new and exciting day full of learning when you were in this class. One day we could be having an energetic and deep group discussion on a thought-provoking Ted Talk for a while. Another day we could be analyzing human behavior and conducting a group design review of different teams working on various projects.

Is there anything else that made this class impactful?

I’ve never been happy when I was forced to learn in a traditional academic setting as I didn’t like the structure of it. It was akin to squeezing a square cube into a round hole. If you push hard enough you may make it fit, but you’re gonna damage the cube in the process. Eventually, I just began to mildly accept the dismal reality that learning can’t be fun and this is how things just are.

Fast forward to my experiences on The A-Team and the Jr/Sr clinic, that all changed.

After reflecting on a story that exemplifies the idea of never settling for the status quo and the learning that took place within the Clinic, I decided to try something new in one of my classes after observing how students were able to learn through a hands-on experience in the classroom rather than just listening to lectures and doing assignments afterward.

During the Fall 2019 semester, I had to take a class for my Computing & Informatics major, called Introduction to Web Development. I didn’t want to go back to the traditional style of learning in a college class after observing how the learning was done in the Clinic course, so I went to my professor’s, Mr. Darren Provine, office after class and asked him what content he had to teach us by the end of the semester. Professor Provine responded that he had to teach us, HTML, CSS, and Javascript or PHP. After explaining to him that I wanted to try to learn differently by doing a semester-long project in place of what he had already planned on doing, he supported my idea. 

Materials in an ECE clinic lab.

So from that day I engaged myself in a self-directed learning style and worked on my personal project. While everyone else in the class was following the standard routine for the course, I was curiously learning at my own pace. I still attended the professor’s class, but the entire time I’d be working on my project while the professor was teaching. At times when I would hit a roadblock in my project that I couldn’t find a solution to, I’d ask my peers on the A-Team and Professor Provine for advice. Additionally, from time to time, I’d check in with Professor Provine to keep him up to date regarding my progress. At the conclusion of the semester, I presented my project and Professor Provine gave me an “A” as my project had included all the requirements he asked for, as well as, extra concepts that had not been covered in the course. Little did I know, the extra concepts that I had learned and applied in the project were supposed to be taught and applied in my Senior Capstone course in the following semester. 

Thanks to the A-Team and the clinic course, for one of the first times in my life, I was finally happy and excited to learn, as I had finally been exposed to an alternative style of learning which engaged my curiosity and made learning the central focus rather than getting good and meaningless test scores. Additionally, I was able to free up my time that would have otherwise been occupied by the course, learn at my own pace with no stress, and collaborate with my A-Team peers on additional projects that we were working on which enabled us to further our learning that semester.

What makes the professors great?

Professors Dyer & Leone are able to clearly break down and articulate concepts in various ways so nobody is left confused if one explanation didn’t work for everyone. They created a fun and engaging learning environment that made me excited to go back the following day, even though I wasn’t enrolled in the class or an engineer. The professors sparked curiosity in the students who were enrolled in the class and would provide resources and food for thought to help students find answers to their questions rather than just giving them an answer. They were always present and genuinely cared about the work and learning that was being accomplished, as well as, the wellbeing of their students.

What are your professional goals?

At the moment I don’t have any as I am still working on figuring them out. Although, a lifetime goal I have is to keep trying to put a smile on people’s faces.

Like what you see?

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, sophomore communication studies, and public relations double major

Student photo provided by:
Fahed Shakil, senior computing and informatics, psychology, and liberal studies triple major

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