How To Make Stuff syllabus

EN 0001: Applications in Engineering, Section 11, class number 82254

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Course description

Hands-on introduction to engineering fabrication. Project-based survey of prototyping and manufacturing methods, including lasercutting, 3D printing, and other modern CNC techniques, as well as methods from the molding, metalworking, and woodworking traditions. Tactical sorties into the realm of microcontrollers and embedded webservers, with an emphasis on open source hardware platforms.

Course goals

The goal of How To Make Stuff is to force students to gain experience with the practical challenges of building mechanical and electrical hardware. Acting as a counterbalance to the largely theory-heavy curriculum of the modern university, the course makes students work in teams with their mostly inexperienced peers, where they argue, break drill bits, and struggle with lightly documented hardware. They face engineering failure and have to recover to succeed.


Brandon Stafford,

I check email in the morning.


There will be no textbook for the class. Instead, you will be asked to buy a small microcontroller and a couple of accessories for a total of around $60. We may do a group order to save on shipping. Here's the current list, but this might change a little, so don't order anything yet.


While there may occasionally be readings or other tasks asked of you, the majority of your effort in this class will be on project work. The class will culminate in a final project covering the 4 weeks before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, we'll concentrate on project documentation and solidifying what you've learned so far.

What you should do before the third class on Tuesday


There will be no quizzes or exams. Grades will be based on your project work.

Did you build something? Did it work? Was it finely crafted? Did you work well with your teammates?

No electronics

Generally, I need too much of your attention to allow distractions like cell phones and laptops in class. There will be rare exceptions in class, like when we're using computers as tools for designing the stuff we're making.


Tu, Th 3:00-4:15 in Bray Lab, 504 Boston Avenue, 1st floor, Room 110, also called "The Instrumentation Lab"

Project work will take place in the Shop, the Design Lab, the Mechatronics Zone, and the Instrumentation Lab, all of which are in Bray Lab.

Lecture plan

Week Tuesday Thursday
1 Popsicle sticks and golf balls Iteration and CAD intro
2 Safety, Bray session #1 Bray session #2
3 Reqs, specs, and estimation Stress and strain
4 Microcontrollers Soldering and oscilloscopes
5 Version control PCB design
6 More PCB design Driving actuators, dealing with high current
7 Sensors Digital and analog filtering
8 Materials Designing plastic parts; molding and casting
9 Project management Designing for 3D printing
10 (no class; Friday schedule) State machines
11 TCP/IP Web frameworks and cloud servers
12 Fasteners (Thanksgiving)
13 Documentation Licensing, intellectual property
14 Engineering ethics Choosing a major or career

Project Plan

Week Tuesday Thursday
1 Popsicle sticks and golf balls --
2 -- --
3 Project 1 Project 1 due
4 Project 2 Project 2 due
5 Project 3 Project 3
6 Project 3 Project 3 due
7 Project 4 Project 4
8 Project 4 Project 4 due
9 Final project Final project
10 (no class; Friday schedule) Final project
11 Final project Final project
12 Final project due (Thanksgiving)
13 Documentation work Documentation work
14 Documentation work Documentation work