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Business students enroll in new Engineering School class

Posted 11/22/00

On the surface, it looks fairly typical: students at an engineering school are building Internet-controlled devices, then etching tiny patterns onto pieces of silicon, then splicing a few genes.

Only catch is, they're business students.

During fall term, Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering offered for the first time a class, Trends in Emerging Technologies, in which 48 of the 53 students are actually enrolled at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. They're studying emerging technologies, and for part of the course, they get a hands-on look at how these technologies are created.

In the first lab, students connect a miniature Web server to an appliance that could then be remote-controlled over the Internet. This technology will someday enable people to control, for example, their home appliances from an office computer or phone. The second lab takes place in the "cleanroom" where students use emerging microfabrication techniques to etch patterns into silicon wafers. The third lab is a biotechnology exercise in transferring genes from one kind of bacteria to another—and in doing so, transferring the ability of these microorganisms to make biodegradable plastic. This offers the students a unique feel for the potential power of genetic engineering.

Says Matthew Whitney, a student at Tuck School of Business: "The Emerging Technologies course provides an outstanding opportunity for MBAs to be hands on in the lab at Thayer School of Engineering. Much of the content covered in the course was completely foreign to me and I found the combination of lectures and labs to be extremely effective. I mean, it's one thing to read and talk about net-enabled appliances, but it's quite another to build your own web site, wire a simple appliance by hand, and learn how to make the two 'talk' to one another. The lab instructors were always available to coach and assist us, but we built the connections and fixed the bugs ourselves."

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