Mini-mester students encounter
‘design process’ in Costa Rica


With help from an exotic Central American locale, students were able to discover and unleash their creativity in the first formal course offered by the College of Architecture at Texas A&M's new facility in Costa Rica during a January mini-mester.

Led by Jorge Vanegas, dean of the college, 20 students in various disciplines spent two weeks in the university's Soltis Center for Research and Education in San Ysidro de Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica, which sits adjacent to the Monte Verde Cloud Forest and near an active volcano.

In the highly sought freshman-level class, "The Design Process," students are asked to form teams and produce patentable inventions and related innovative ideas with potential applications.

Although the Costa Rican mini-mester might seem like a vacation, said Vanegas, students worked extremely hard on their projects, adding that the exotic setting helped them conceive products that compared very favorably to the ones turned in by students during a long semester.

"Their eyes opened to really seeing the world in a much richer way than they're accustomed," said Vanegas. "Without the noise of music and TV and cars and the fast pace of life, you start looking at the world very differently."

Class sessions were punctuated with day and night hikes in the rain forest, cave explorations, snorkeling and zipline rides above the forest canopy.

"They were able to tap into parts of their being that are normally not challenged or tapped in normal classes with so many other things they have to do," he said. " They didn't mind getting wet and muddy, being surrounded by bugs and frogs and all kinds of rain forest inhabitants, and they really started looking, listening, smelling and tasting."

For some of the students, he said, it was their first trip abroad.

"They saw a different part of the world," he said. "The lusciousness and the vibrancy of the life in a rain forest, the excitement of the zipline—I think it was a transformational experience for all of them."

After the teams were set, students, aided by the ambience of the center, started to form their ideas.

"All the teams bonded very quickly, and students put in lot of work," said Vanegas. "One might think a whole semester condensed into two weeks is a stretch, but with the exception of specific outings designed as a complement to the course they didn't have any other distractions, because the center is located in a place where there are no other distractions except nature."

“The Design Process” is a popular class at Texas A&M that attracts students from a wide range of majors.

"The 20 students represented disciplines as diverse as chemical engineering, wildlife fisheries, nutrition, mathematics, international studies and computer science; it creates an excellent setting for students to benefit from other disciplines," he said.

The students, he said, were happy to have a learning experience at the Soltis Center.

"I think this course personifies the spirit and intent of globalizing the education of our students to really make use of Texas A&M's assets around the world," he said.

To learn how the College of Architecture played an integral role in the center's design and construction, visit


- Posted: Feb. 01, 2010 -

- the end -


Click to enlarge
the image.

Update your contact info and share your news!

The College of Architecture strives to keep up with former students and share their successes in the archone. newsletter. Please take a moment to update your contact information and tell us what you've been up to. Click Here
bottom page borders