Transdisciplinary Studio II focuses on collaborative problem solving. Students in this class will be from the same 14 majors participating in Calhoun Discovery Program (CDP). They take this class on the second semester of their second year of undergraduate study in Virginia Tech. Students in teams work on projects that will leverage the existing and developing capabilities in Industry 4.0 for Sustainable Development lab (I4SD), Calhoun Discovery Program (CDP) and Honors College Studios' (HCS) work cells. This course builds on the methodology introduced in Studio I and will introduce prototyping a system as a way o thinking about and solving problems.
This studio will be offered for the first time in Spring 2021.


A key aspect of this studio is the emphasis on innovation. Students will be introduced to various theories of innovation (e.g., creative destruction, radical innovation) to better understand the gaps that they can address. In line with the mission of Studio I students are encouraged to take a human-centric approach and leverage the power of design thinking to develop a conceptual product that addresses a real need.

System Prototyping

Before prototyping a product/service/process for optimization or better performance students will begin with prototyping the system that the product is part of. Analyzing the entities of the system, their form and relationship (Cf. Cameron, Bruce, Edward Crawley, and Daniel Selva. Systems Architecture. Strategy and product development for complex systems. Pearson Education, 2016).

We introduce prototyping as a way of thinking and solving the problem rather than a means to an end. This approach is aligned with the concept of reflective practice introduced by Donald Schön.

Studio Phases

This studio uses the same subset of NASA project life cycle that we introduce in Studio I (Cf. NASA Systems Engineering Handbook, P.18, Fig. 3.0-1). This studio class has 2 phases. In phase I students choose a project from a set of complex problems already being researched in various labs of I4SD. In the second phase students pitch their own problems that they would like to work on. These projects could be continuation of the problems that they have looked into before or an entire new problem.

Each phase of the studio follows a subset of NASA's project development milestones. These milestones are: Analysis of Alternatives (AoA). Mission Concept Review (MCR), Preliminary Design Review (PDR), and Critical Design Review (CDR). For each milestones students develop video presentation of their research into the problem space. They analyze the problem using system thinking and prototype a conceptual product/service/process.

Peer-Review and Critique

The peer-review for this studio emphasizes the research (same as Studio I) and development. Students are encouraged to looked beyond the shortcomings of the initial prototypes and discuss the potentials of them. The process and implementation of the critique forms are similar to those of Studio I.


Students invite industry and nonprofit partners to their meetings during and outside of class. For each phase partners are invited to provide feedback to the entire class as some of them might not have interacted with all teams. Stay tuned for images of student team's projects that will be posted here!

© Shahabedin Sagheb