Students from varied disciplines explore the
design process during Costa Rican adventure


During a January 2011 minimester at Texas A&M’s Soltis Center for Research and Education in Costa Rica, students soared above a cloud forest and sharpened their creative skills while exploring “The Design Process,” one of the most popular classes offered at the College of Architecture.

Students in the compact mini-mester class, a creativity workshop led by Jorge Vanegas, dean of the college, were encouraged to spark, explore, discover and develop their creative problem-solving abilities and entrepreneurial spirit, both individually and in multidisciplinary teams.

Vanegas said the class attracted diverse, multidisciplinary group from 14 different undergraduate programs including chemical engineering, construction science, kinesiology, petroleum engineering, aerospace engineering and biomedical science.

“Given that all assignments required each student to produce rather than reproduce knowledge, the class, Vanegas said, challenged students to think holistically and realize their creative potential.”

Students also developed leadership, written and oral communications skills and learned how to conduct a patent search.

Texas A&M’s Soltis Center for Research and Education, located in San Ysidro de Peñas Blancas, adjacent to the Monte Verde Cloud Forest and near the active Arenal volcano, was a stepping off-point for other adventures, including day and night hikes in the cloud forest, cave explorations, a river raft tour and zipline rides above the forest canopy.

“Costa Rica greatly enhanced what I took from this course because it provided a unique insight to a different culture, an environment that fostered creativity and a great opportunity to form bonds that enhanced the material,” said Amanda Soza, a biomedical sciences major.

Chemical engineering major David Chaar said the class was an unsurpassed mental challenge that pushed his creative and innovative powers to their limits.

“The class made me aware of mundane things in life that actually have a great impact on society and the world,” he said. “I’ve become more aware of issues and events going on around me, because there are many opportunities waiting to be discovered.”

The center, which began operations in January 2009, was built by Bill Soltis, a 1955 mechanical engineering graduate from Texas A&M. The facility design was based on student designs created in a spring 2008 multidisciplinary studio at the College of Architecture. Soltis also donated land for the center.

That 2008 studio, composed of 62 students from architecture, landscape architecture and construction science, produced a site analysis and 12 different design concepts, the best of which significantly influenced the center buildings’ final appearance.

For more about the college’s role in the center’s history, visit


- Posted: Feb. 7, 2011 -

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Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, or 979.458.0442.


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