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As an integral part of the required course "Introduction to Engineering," every freshman engineer at Arizona State University is involved in a realistic design project. The object is to give the student a clear idea of the role of the engineer, the challenges he faces, and the skills he must acquire. In this project, each student works as a member of an "engineering firm" which develops a new design that is based on one of a number of ideas originally generated by the students themselves. This paper describes how this design competition is organized. This design experience, running through the entire semester, is paralleled by weekly lectures by prominent engineers from industry, as well as by formal conventional instruction in the elements of engineering analysis and computation.