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Design projects give instructors a chance to integrate lecture material into an engaging engineering experience. Students working on “real-world” design projects can see how their projects apply to life outside the classroom. There has been much talk about implementing a “cornerstone” design experience into first-year classes, but how “real-world” can a design project be for first-year engineering students without the technical background of their upper-division counterparts? Can students see the applications of their designs when their models and simulations are limited due to their skill set? At Michigan Technological University, we are investigating what happens when first-year students learn about future research opportunities and coursework from upper-division students, and how this material is related to their design project. It is hoped that students will have a greater enthusiasm for their project when they know that their knowledge will be useful in the future or when they see where their design project work could lead. In addition, it is hoped that students will have a greater understanding of the application of their own work.