Engineering Design

Syllabus 2013-14


The purpose of this course is to introduce the process of engineering design and problem-solving.  It is based around a series of design and development projects undertaken by small teams of students.  We study and apply basic principles of structural (civil), mechanical and electrical engineering and apply these principles to analyze designs and create new ones.  In doing so, we also learn to estimate and plan projects and evaluate progress against plans, including how to manage our own (and other team members’) time.  Readings from the professional and popular literature provide a base on which students examine team dynamics, concurrent development, engineering ethics, human factors and ergonomics, the social and political consequences of technological change, and business cases for investment and payback.  Field trips to businesses and guest speakers provide additional perspectives as time permits.


The course is organized around three major units, each covering a general topic area with additional specific learning goals as shown below.   


Topic Area


Days (approx)

Mechanical Engineering

Sketch parts and assemblies using orthographic and isometric form

Create assembly drawings using CAD software

Characterize mechanical motion and mechanisms for translating motion

Construct simple mechanisms using cardboard




User-Centered Design

Use User-Centered Design principles to conceive, design, and prototype an innovative mechanical device


Electrical Engineering

Identify and analyze the behavior of simple electronic components – resistors, capacitors, LEDs, diodes, potentiometers, photoresistors, transistors, etc.

Analyze simple DC electronic circuits using Ohm’s and Kirchoff’s Laws

Design and build basic electronic circuits to accomplish specific goals

Control circuits by programming a microcontroller


Midyear Project

Complete a selected project using mechanical and/or electrical engineering techniques.


Structural Engineering

Construct a cardboard truss bridge from plans

Analyze the forces in simple structures using the Method of Joints

Test sample structural members for tensile and buckling strength

Analyze shear forces using stress and strain

Design and plan construction of a pedestrian bridge using pasteboard, and then build to your plan




Robotics (Final Project)

Design, plan, and program a robot that uses sensor circuits in a contest against other robots




Make contemporaneous records of project activities

Record and analyze time spent on activities to improve future plans

Compare plans to actual results to improve future plans

Analyze failures or problems methodically to improve designs