This paper presents a case study of Jeff, a mechanical engineering senior, and his experience with design in two different contexts — one in the classroom and one extracurricular. After a year-long study of undergraduate engineers, Jeff revealed marked differences in his uptake of design principles and reflexivity toward his thinking within the discipline. We explored with Jeff the critical differences and experiences that led to his changes once we had completed data collection with his peer cohort of undergraduates. We explored Jeff’s interpretation of the differences he considered as positive changes, the attributes of applying principles of problem typology, and the requisite context required to achieve these changes as a student. Through qualitative analysis four assertions are examined — improved approach to design problem solving, broadened view of design, engineering as multiple types of problems, and relevance to the profession — and validated through a member check. Potential implications for engineering education, especially as it pertains to design education are briefly described.

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