Would you like to practice working with a team designing software? Then check out DesignFest.
DesignFest is an excellent workshop at the OOPSLA conference; it's free to conference registrants. OOPSLA 2006 is just a month away, October 22-26 in Portland, Oregon. So make your plans soon if you want to be there.
DesignFest is a one-day workshop where you're part of a 4-6 person team presented with requirements for a simple software application. Your team designs a solution and then develops a prototype by the end of the day. DesignFest coaches, experienced industry practitioners, help the team with this process. It's a really great chance to do some hands-on work, experiment with different techniques, practice working nicely with others in a somewhat pressure-filled situation, and generally learn a lot.
I participated in DesignFest a couple of years ago, specifically with a team using Extreme Programming (XP), the Eclipse IDE, JUnit, etc. I got to participate first hand in the XP planning process and a couple of 2-hour iterations. I learned a lot, and it really sold me on XP in a way that a bunch of PowerPoint slides would not have.
Whether you choose to be on an agile team or a more traditional one, Java or .NET, DesignFest is a great way to improve your design skills. Check it out.