College of Engineering Laptop Requirement
Beginning in the fall 2017 semester, incoming students intending to enroll in engineering or engineering management will be required to have a laptop.
Laptops are needed for in-class instructional purposes in required engineering fundamentals courses. You’ll use your laptop to solve problems, collaborate, discuss applications of engineering, and work on engineering projects.
We understand you may already have a laptop. There’s no need to buy a new one if yours meets the minimum specifications below. We strongly encourage you to bring a laptop that meets the recommended specifications—the memory and storage capacity will allow you to effectively run necessary software and process data provided to you for assignments.
How to Find Your System Specifications
In Windows to find basic system information you can click the Start Menu icon and type "System Information" on most computers it will find an application that displays basic information about your system. An alternate means would be to open File Explorer and locate your "Computer" or "My Computer" icon and right click on it and choose Properties.
On a Mac OS computer a person can simply click the Apple logo in the top left corner of the screen and choose "About this Mac" from the menu.
A laptop meeting only the minimum specifications is unlikely to last for your entire Michigan Tech career. The more capacity and power your laptop has, the more likely it will serve your needs throughout your time at Michigan Tech.
If you are planning to buy a new laptop, expect to pay between $900 and $1,500 for a model with the recommended specifications. See additional information on computer recommendations.
Why Laptops are Required
Teaching engineers to effectively use a laptop is the modern equivalent of teaching engineers to use a slide rule in pre-technology days. Pervasive computing—a mindset of using computation to solve problems and gather the best information possible—is one of the largest goals of the Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering in establishing the laptop initiative.
The College of Engineering’s First-Year Engineering Program is moving to a new model of instruction called a “flipped classroom.” The flipped classroom is grounded on the idea that students will prepare for class by doing readings and using other resources before class time. Once in class, students will work to solve problems, discuss applications of engineering, and participate in engineering projects. To facilitate this model, each student must have a laptop of their own to prepare before class and to participate fully in class.
Most students come to Michigan Tech with computers, and a high percentage bring laptops. Although a high percentage of students come with laptops now, we need to ensure 100 percent participation in class. Laptops will now be required.
How the Laptop will be Used
In order to become a successful engineer or engineering manager, students must do engineering, and that means learning how to solve problems. Students will apply problem- solving methods and computational approaches.
Suppose a homework problem is to find the shape of a “catenary cable” that anchors a bridge given connections points of the cable to bridge end points. In teams of three, each student will work out their own version of solutions with the help of MATLAB®, and once completed, will compare notes with the other two students. Improvements will be made to reach a team “best solution.”
Here, the individual use of laptops is critical because if only one student were creating a solution, the tendency would be for two students to watch, while the third solves the problem.
Engineering is a collaborative effort. For each student to carry their weight in the context of the team, they need the same level of tool—a modern and capable laptop. On larger projects, delegation of tasks is critical to completing the project by the deadline.
Suppose the project is to analyze the environmental consequences of a new chemical plant being erected on the banks of a large lake. Team members may be delegated jobs in order to determine the environmental impact. One student may create a computational code to determine impact—the others would need to verify results by testing that code. A second student would work to outline and develop a draft of the project report, and then all three students need a chance to work together to input their respective parts. Finally, the third student may be responsible for developing graphics for the report—the other two would need to test those graphics for accuracy.
In each case, the students will be collaborating and developing an answer to a complex engineering problem. Part of this work will be done during class time and the rest in outside team meetings.
The use of a personal student laptop ensures that all members of the group participate—and that each student actively participates in the collective work to develop a solution.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is required to have a laptop?
New incoming first-year engineering and engineering management majors will be required to have a laptop for in-class use in select engineering classes taken during the first and second years at Michigan Tech. Transfer students enrolling at Michigan Tech without applicable transfer credit or course waivers are also required to have a laptop for in-class use.
- Biomedical engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Computer engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Engineering (BSE)
- Engineering management
- Environmental engineering
- General engineering
- Geological engineering
- Materials science and engineering
- Mechanical engineering
In which courses will a laptop be used?
Laptops will be used for daily instruction as well as for testing purposes in the following courses.
- ENG 1001 - Engineering Problem Solving
- ENG 1100 - Engineering Analysis
- ENG 1101 - Engineering Analysis and Problem Solving
- ENG 1102 - Engineering Modeling and Design
Students who have received transfer credit for ENG 1101 are not required to have a laptop. If you will be enrolled in ENG 1102, we recommend you bring a laptop.
Why are incoming students the only ones required to have a laptop starting in Fall 2017?
The laptop requirement will phase in one year at a time for students who major in engineering or engineering management.
- 2017-18 - First-year students
- 2018-19 - First-year students and sophomores
- 2019-20 - First-year students, sophomores, and juniors
- 2020-21 - All undergraduates in the College of Engineering
Eventually, all departments in the College of Engineering will require laptops. Each department will determine which courses will directly use laptops.
Is having a laptop really required?
Yes. Much of the time you spend in your first-year engineering classes will be spent working on problem sets with your laptop in the context of team-based technical problem solving. Your laptop is your personal tool that you bring to the table to build new solutions, share your solutions with your teammates, and work together toward an improved solution.
Do I need to buy a specific brand or model of laptop?
We don't recommend or discourage any particular brand of laptop. The brand and model you use is your choice; however, the laptop specifications listed need to be met.
If I already have a laptop that meets the recommended specifications, do I need to buy any other computer hardware?
No other hardware is required—a 1TB external drive for backup and additional storage is strongly recommended. Once you settle in at Michigan Tech you may find other computer peripherals, like an external monitor to use in your residence hall room, may be beneficial.
Where should I buy a laptop if I don’t already have one that meets the Michigan Tech standards?
You may select any retailer you wish. Just be sure the laptop you select meets the required specifications.
Does Michigan Tech offer discounts?
Michigan Tech does not sell computers. However, discounts are available through Dell and many companies offer discounts for students. Student discount sections can usually be found by searching on the Internet for "student discount" and a company name, e.g., Dell, HP, etc. We have found that purchasing a computer through the Dell discount program typically lowers the cost and provides greater warranty options—we suggest exploring warranty details when comparing models and costs.
Can I use a tablet or smartphone instead of a laptop?
At this time, smartphones and tablets do not offer the flexibility needed for use in our engineering courses.
What do you recommend, PC or Mac?
The software used in the engineering programs is designed primarily for Windows PCs. For those who select a Mac laptop, you will need to have virtualization software such as VMWare Fusion to enable you to run engineering software that is not native to a Mac. Virtualization software typically has a cost associated with it, and requires additional technical knowledge to set up and maintain.
Can I use a Chromebook or similar network-only computer?
No. At the current time, you need to have a computer capable of running the Windows operating system.
Do I need to purchase or download specific software?
Once you are on campus and the semester has begun, you will download a number of software applications from the secure Michigan Tech IT website—we have supplied software for student use for many years. The software you need is available at no cost to you. However, do note that software contracts prohibit downloading until the start of classes.
What support is available on campus if I have issues with my laptop?
In your first engineering class, you will get specific instructions on how to download the required software. Onsite mentoring to assist with downloads and installation will also be provided.
Michigan Tech’s IT Help Desk can help you diagnose basic problems you might have with your laptop. Software issues can usually be resolved, but not always.
Hardware issues with your laptop may be diagnosed by IT, but repairs need to be addressed by you. IT staff will provide a list of local repair shops you can consult with. We strongly recommend using the warranty provided with your laptop. We suggest exploring the details of the warranty when comparing costs.
What do I do if my laptop breaks? Are loaner laptops available?
Short-term loaner laptops will be available at no cost to students who experience a laptop malfunction that requires repair. Laptops are not available to borrow for the entire semester. You should plan to arrive at Michigan Tech with a laptop that meets the required specifications.
What if I don’t feel I can afford to buy a laptop?
Students may contact Financial Aid to inquire about possible financing options. A one-time cost of attendance adjustment may be made to allow students to have increased loan eligibility to assist with covering the laptop expense. Please note that you will be required to provide documentation, such as a price quote and/or receipt of purchase, to have the cost of attendance adjusted. Contact the Financial Aid staff at 888-688-1885 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will my financial aid cover the cost of a laptop?
Each student’s financial aid package will vary. Contact our Financial Aid staff at 888-688-1885 or email email@example.com to inquire about possible financing options.
Do I need to bring my laptop to class every day?
Yes. Individual and team-oriented activities will require you to participate with your laptop each day your class meets.
What is the internet connection like on campus?
Wireless coverage is excellent within the residence halls and in all University classrooms. Numerous wireless lounge spaces in academic buildings are maintained across campus.
Can I use this laptop for other things besides engineering classes?
Absolutely—this is your personal laptop. You will find having a laptop beneficial for many of your classes, including those outside of engineering. Be sure to follow the class policies your instructors set for technology in class, as well as the Standards for the Acceptable Use of Information Technology at Michigan Tech.
Do I need a printer?
There are 31 HuskyPrint stations spread throughout campus—in academic buildings, computer labs, and residence halls. HuskyPrint stations are accessible from any lab computer, as well as your personal computer. To print from your personal computer, you’ll need to install some software. Learn more about printing resources on campus.
Are there local stores to buy accessories or have my laptop repaired?
Yes. There are computer repair stores in the local area, as well as retailers such as Walmart and Shopko for accessories and supplies. Many students also order from online retailers—packages are delivered directly to your residence hall by UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service.