Engineering Strategies & Practice (ESP)

Real-world project experience for U of T Engineering students

Engineering Strategies & Practice (ESP) is an innovative course for first-year students designed to foster excitement for engineering through projects for real-world clients.

This course enables students to develop skills such as:

  • professional communication
  • problem solving
  • independent thinking
  • systems thinking
  • team dynamics

We are looking for volunteers to act as clients for our U of T Engineering students.

Have a problem to solve or a project idea?

On this page

    About the course

    Emphasis on design & communication

    The design process as well as writing and reading - as engineering activities - are introduced.

    These lessons in combination with hands-on projects give students a chance to grapple with the challenges of engineering using a holistic approach where they identify and take into account social, environmental, and human factors as frontline design considerations and constraints.

    In the Winter term, the students team up to work on a major design project. Working with a client, they will go through a complete design process to develop a workable solution to meet the client's need. The end result will be a portfolio of written and graphical work and an oral presentation.

    By tackling a design project from beginning to end, students will learn:

    • Project management
    • How to approach a complex problem and break it down into solvable parts
    • How to acquire and use information in the design process


    Encourage students in first year to synthesize and integrate their knowledge in the broader engineering context.


    • The role of engineering in society
    • Our relationship with the environment
    • The potential and importance our work holds for people

    Become a client

    In order to provide our students with real-life scenarios, we are looking for volunteers to act as clients with a project or problem in mind.

    What types of projects are we looking for?

    Projects may involve designs for a facility, a process, or a device.  Your problem/project does not have to be technically complicated, and should allow a variety of possible solutions. For example, students have successfully completed space redesigns, equipment designs, accessibility designs, inventory systems, virtual facilities, and energy and time-saving systems.

    Please note that our first-year students design solutions for a problem/challenge -they do not implement the solutions, they do not program/code software, etc.

    Next steps

    1. If you would like to volunteer as a client, you can do so easily by completing the online Client Submission Form by early December.
    2. The ESP Office will contact you confirming the suitability of your submission.
    3. The assigned student team will contact you in late January to arrange the first of three meetings in the Winter term.

    Feedback from past clients

    Audrey O'Handley

    Lemonville Living House Challenge

    "The team's report is outstanding! The detail and research done is very clear, it is clearly indicated which aspects are for demonstration purposes and how we can achieve each and every possible idea...right down to the prices and recommended contacts. This is GOLD. It is going to be an example of a living house in Canada for people to learn about sustainable living."

    Steve Tower

    St. Michael's College

    "The students pleasantly surprised us with their creativity and 'out-of-the-box' thinking. They presented well thought-out ideas on the implementation of their designs, as well as, total life cycle considerations. Their 3-D printed models were helpful in envisioning the final results. We were impressed with their ability to create and deliver a presentation to us."

    Anne Ellis


    "I have been a client for several years in ESP and have immensely enjoyed working with the students to solve a variety of problems. These have included re-directing water from my eavestrough, solving an issue with our garage floor and investigating which fireplace would best meet our needs amongst other projects. Overall, I can highly recommend this experience to anyone."

    Rotem Shargall

    Zareinu Education Centre

    "I thank you for the opportunity to work with the students, and I would be happy to continue the communication with the team as they move forward. I think a continued relationship and cooperation between the students of the engineering department and, us, the therapists, can be very interesting and can lead to new concepts and to new products that are in need for our young special-needs population."

    Rahim Rezaie

    Centre for Global Engineering

    "I just wanted to highlight that my experience with the ESP team that worked on my proposed challenge was nothing short of excellent. The team worked in a very diligent and thoughtful manner, were very professional in their approaches, and very creative and persuasive in their ultimate solution proposal. I learned a whole lot from them during this process. Keep up the great work!"

    Andy Sun


    "The team was courteous and professional throughout the project. They have exceeded my expectations by deciding to produce a prototype of their concept despite their other course workload. They sometimes made me forget that I was dealing with a group of 1st-year students and not a team from an engineering consulting firm."

    FAQs from project clients

    Contact us

    Engineering Strategies & Practice
    Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
    University of Toronto
    35 St. George Street, Room 149
    Toronto, ON M5S 1A4



    Three ESP project clients: Mehdi, Adam and Marissa

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