Design for Fabrication syllabus #

ME 93, Design for Fabrication, Section DF-LEC, class number 23241

Course description #

Explore design thinking through a series of practical design challenges, coupled with design review by your peers and the instructor. Over the course of the semester, you will face approximately five challenges that require you, sometimes alone, sometimes as a team, to design, prototype, and fabricate working solutions. Emphasis will be placed on understanding real-world design constraints resulting from different fabrication methods, hardware selection, and material properties. An effort will be made to allow students to pursue areas of personal interest, such as mechanisms, embedded electronics, or robotics, in the context of the design challenges. Students with scant interest in fabrication are encouraged to enroll in other courses. The course will have no textbook, but there will be some expenses for materials incurred.

Course goals #

The goal of the course is to force students to gain experience with the practical challenges of building mechanical 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.

Lecturer #

Brandon Stafford,

Learning assistant #

Emily Kostolansky

Office hours #

Brandon’s office hours are:

  • All day in Nolop
  • Generally, I leave Nolop at 2:15 on Mondays, 4:15 on Tuesdays, 5:15 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 6:15 on Fridays.

Textbooks #

There will be no textbook for the class.

Assignments #

Most of the class will be working on 5 design challenges, sometimes in small teams.

No electronics during lectures #

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. If I have to remind you about this a few times, I’ll ask you to leave class. If you think this might be a problem for you, I would recommend putting your phone somewhere inaccessible during class. You should probably also think carefully about the role technology is playing in your life. (I should add that I also feel the tug of the phone, though maybe not as strongly as some of you.)

Lectures #

Tu, Th 10:30-11:45 AM in Anderson 309

Project work will take place in Nolop and Bray Lab.

Financial constraints #

If, for whatever reason, you cannot afford to pay for the stuff needed for this class, please let me know, either in person or via email. In virtually all cases, the Mechanical Engineering Department will pay for whatever you can’t afford; if they can’t, I will. Under no circumstances should your education suffer because you don’t have the right tools or supplies.

Honesty #

I take honesty very seriously. Not only am I required to report violations of academic integrity, I am glad to do so. We are all fortunate to be at Tufts; there is no excuse for squandering that opportunity by representing someone else’s work as your own. If you’re unsure about the details, read the Tufts Academic Integrity Policy.

Artificial intelligence #

You can use ChatGPT or a similar tool (DALL-E, GPT4, whatever) for any work in this class if you wish. However, I have 2 requirements:

  1. For anything that is generated by such a tool, please add a note at the beginning like, “Generated by ChatGPT.”
  2. Please think carefully before you use an AI tool. In most cases, the point of the work we do is to train your mind; the writing or other work that you create is the ticket stub that shows you did the training. Using ChatGPT to skip the mental training is like buying ticket stubs off of Ebay for concerts you didn’t go to and showing them off to your friends– probably a mistake, if you like the music.

Grading #

The course will be graded on the basis of a series of student-generated learning goals and assessments. Full details appear on the assessment page.

Budget #

The Department of Mechanical Engineering will cover $1000 for the class as a whole for project expenses. We will try to allocate the support to those who need it the most.

Project storage #

During the semester, you can store stuff in Nolop, as usual. After the semester ends, either you can take your device back to your dorm room, or I will lovingly place it in the dumpster for you on May 9th (the day after our final showcase).

A note about general resourcefulness #

Engineering is hard, and you are adults. It is fairly easy to get discouraged and think that this class is too overwhelming or unstructured. It is both of those things, but the answer is to be resourceful and resilient in the face of that adversity.

You have a great opportunity before you, in which you can try building stuff the world has never seen. You can also probably skate by without really putting your heart into it. You will get out of this class roughly what you put into it; I strongly recommend trying harder than usual.