Outside education, many people work in teams with specialists in different disciplines to address big problems without a known answer. Traditional courses don’t address this until the later years of the degree – if they include it at all. We think that, to be successful in this environment, you need to start doing challenging work with others as soon as possible.

Our newly-developed course, known as the ‘Integrated Engineering Programme’, gives first-year students an opportunity to put their learning into practice through interdisciplinary, problem-based learning with a design focus: specifically to work on two major five-week design projects.

You’ll be set to work on real problems – such as securing a country’s energy supply or distributing life’s necessities to communities in the developing world – and asked to work in a group to develop one piece of a proposed solution. You’ll use both the professional skills and technical knowledge you’ve gained in class to achieve this, and present your work to your peers, instructors and industry advisors. 

UCL Engineering was a pioneer in this method of teaching, and many of our departments have their own take on it.


After four weeks learning about civil engineering principles, students were put into small groups and given background information on a village facing problems with costal erosion. Then they spent a week looking for solutions, which they then presented to the rest of the students. Lecturers were available to provide assistance, but students were encouraged to find their own way and come up with their own ideas.

Hear students talk about their scenario experiences in the video below:


Being able to diagnose a problem is a crucial skill for engineers. Electronic engineers were faced with a phone line and asked to determine what number was being dialled. Using their understanding of electromagnetism, they detected the signal flowing through the wire, and drawing on their skills in signal analysis and digital processing determined what it was saying. The number was for a mobile phone sealed in a box in the middle of the classroom: the first group to find the number and call the phone were declared the winners.


Computer science students learn programming and problem-solving through controlling custom robots, developed and made entirely by UCL Computer Science staff. Students learn to control their robots’ movement, take input from its sensors, and then complete a number of other challenges, finishing up with the UCL Computer Science robot race.

Why we do it

University is a time for people to develop their independence as well as their skills. To help you connect the theory there are opportunities in all years to put it into practice. Our programmes are designed to not only provide core technical skills but also help you understand the bigger picture. Engineering problems don’t respect disciplinary boundaries, so we aim to produce graduates that understand the context of what they do and how to work in interdisciplinary teams to produce results. When you learn in this way you understand teamwork, compromise, communication and how to think around a problem.

Many reports from industry and professional bodies have identified a need for engineering graduates to be more familiar with not just course content, but applying it in unfamiliar situations. In this way, we help prepare our students for life after graduation.

Also, our students enjoy it.