Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session

Labs: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Physics I (8.01)

Single-Variable Calculus (18.01)

For upperclass students:

Fundamentals of Material Science (3.012)

Electronic, Optical, and Magnetic Properties of Materials (3.024) or equivalent


This class introduces students to the interdisciplinary nature of 21st-century engineering projects with three threads of learning: a technical toolkit, a social science toolkit, and a methodology for problem-based learning. Students encounter the social, political, economic, and technological challenges of engineering practice by participating in real engineering projects with faculty and industry; this semester's major project focuses on the engineering and economics of solar cells. Student teams will create prototypes and mixed media reports with exercises in project planning, analysis, design, optimization, demonstration, reporting and team building.


Each week features one lecture and one lab session. Lectures by experts introduce reference materials and research methodology at a high level. Students should be prepared to participate in discussion with the lecturer. Each team is responsible for posing relevant questions. Class discussion tests student knowledge and retention of previous week's lecture and lab. This class involves 6 hours of homework per week.

Assignments include four lab experiments, four case studies, and two projects. Teams of four to six students will each execute a project; each project is divided into a series of exercises. Team projects and laboratory exercises are introduced through a case study with reference materials provided. Each case study begins with an introduction and discussion during class, and proceeds via online discussion and optional appointments with Prof. Kimerling and lecturers/mentors/lab instructors.

One solution will be submitted per team. Assignments must be prepared in an electronic format. All members of the team must contribute to each assignment, and will receive the same project grade. Workgroups must complete all four parts of the project during the term and the final project. The final deliverables are:

  • 15 minute presentation (5-6 slides), during which all workgroup members must speak.
  • Two days later, submit corrected slides and a final two-page report.

Team composition and team leadership will change four times. Each team will have one hour of coaching in communication skills and one hour in content (technical, social, economic, political) available each week. In addition to designated office hours, coaching sessions may be arranged by email. Teams should be diverse in membership to provide maximum learning.


Class and team participation will measure the student's unique ability to grasp concepts and retain facts, and to practice the social and political skills of an engineer. If a student misses class without providing a valid excuse, a grade of 0 will be given for that class.


Readings are assigned from lecture notes, selections from other books, journal articles, and other handouts.


Team and class participation10%
Labs (4) and lab notebook30%
Case studies (4)20%
Final project30%
Communication skills10%