Spring; 16 weeks; 3 credits

Lecture: Section 110; M 4:40-5:30pm 
Lab: Section 111; W/F 3:35-5:25pm 

Teaching Team

Instructors: Carlo Salvinelli & Evan Thomas
Teaching Assistant: Jessica Darby 

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to provide you an introduction to engineering through a series of projects done in interdisciplinary teams. You will learn in a hands-on way valuable engineering skills including communication skills, how to function in teams, and  a variety of computer tools as appropriate to your projects, such as programming microcontrollers, dynamic modeling software, or computer-aided design (CAD). Specific learning objectives for the course include:

  1. Open-ended Hands-on Design Experience: apply iterative design process to improve design; define functional requirements and specifications; generate alternative design concepts; work within constraints including safety; and appreciate and practice engineering habits of mind (see below).
  2. Teamwork Skills: learn and practice effective teamwork skills; learn how to rely on other team members to give and receive help; demonstrate increased understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and practice conflict resolution.
  3. Communication Skills: develop a professional relationship with an engineering faculty member; develop technical writing and oral presentation skills; effectively communicate final designs to a range of audiences; and learn and practice active listening skills.
  4.  Engineering Methodology: build hands-on engineering skills for prototyping and manufacturing; practice the role of analysis in the design process; solve engineering problems with appropriate tools; and effectively apply technical skills to produce prototypes/design artifacts that consider a range of economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
  5. Engineering Ethics: understand the importance of an ethical code for the practice of engineering; appreciate that difficult, ‘gray’ situations arise in engineering practice; and develop an ethical process that will yield appropriate decisions when needed.

Engineering Habits of Mind

Systems-thinking Seeing whole systems and parts, and how they connect ─ recognizing interdependencies, and synthesizing. Equipping people to recognize essential interconnections in the technological world and to appreciate that systems may have unexpected effects that cannot be predicted from the behavior of individual subsystems.
Creativity and Creative Problem Solving Inherent in the engineering design process; applying techniques from other traditions, generating ideas and solutions with others, providing generous but rigorous critiquing, and participating in engineering as a ‘team sport’
Problem-finding, selecting & defining Demonstrating a desire to solve real problems through clarifying needs, checking existing solutions, investigating contexts, and quantifying and verifying specifications
Visualizing Moving from abstract to concrete, manipulating materials, practicing mental rehearsal of physical space and of practical design solutions
Improving Relentlessly trying to make things better by brainstorming, experimenting, designing, sketching, guessing, conjecturing, thought-experimenting, and prototyping
Adapting Testing, analyzing, reflecting, rethinking, changing (physically and mentally)
Drawing attention to the impacts of engineering on people and the environment. Ethical considerations include unintended consequences of a technology, the potential disproportionate advantages or disadvantages of a technology for certain groups or individuals, and other issues, including equity in access to engineered solutions
Demonstrating Optimism Having a world view in which possibilities and opportunities can be found in every challenge and an understanding that every technology can be improved
Productively  Respond to Failure Living the adage that “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want,” proactively learning and applying the knowledge and perspective gained from each design iteration to inform the next design.
Collaborating Leveraging the perspectives, knowledge and capabilities of team member when addressing  design challenges
Communicating Essential to effective collaboration, to understanding the wants and needs of customers, and to explaining and justifying the final design solution within myriad constraints.

Engineering habits of mind adapted from NAE 2009 and Lucas et al. 2014.

Course Supplies and Project Budget

The projects course requires students in teams to develop a multi-week design project that includes materials and fabrication of components specific to the project, as well as may require additional skills workshops after class hours through the ITLP or Idea Forge. The budget for your main design project will be created with funds from you and your design team. Each team member is expected to contribute up to $75 to fund any needed skills workshops and the main design project. Please factor in the cost of your expo poster, which will be ~$30 per team.


The course grade will be based on a combination of group work and individual accomplishment:

Group work: 60%

  • Introductory project deliverables 15%
  • Team growth plan 5%
  • Final Design project deliverables 25%
  • Final Design Expo 15%

Individual accomplishments: 40%

  • Safety, Saws, and Drills/Workshops Mastery 10%
  • Individual HW Assignment  5%
  • Individual writing assignments/reflections/individual growth plan 10%
  • Peer evaluations 5%
  • Attendance and professionalism 10%

I reserve the right to adjust this scale if we spend more or less time on something during the semester. All group work grades are subject to change based on participation and the discretion of the professor. Course grades are assigned using the grading scale shown below. I am responsible for assessing student learning in this course; therefore, I reserve the right to adjust letter grades at the end of the semester.

     >93 A   (4.0)                    90-93 A-  (3.7)

87-90  B+ (3.3)                     83-87 B   (3.0)

80-83  B-  (2.7)                     77-80 C+ (2.3)

73-77  C    (2.0)                    70-73 C-  (1.7)

67-70  D+  (1.3)                    63-67 D   (1.0)

60-63  D-   (0.7)                    <60.0 F   (0.0)

Late Work: Late work will not be accepted. If you miss a deadline due to extenuating circumstances, please plan on using one of your two late work passes on the back of this syllabus.

Grade Disputes: If you disagree with any graded item, please email me a PDF of the graded item, as well as a description of why you believe your question was incorrectly graded within one week of the date I return the graded assignment.

Attendance Policy

This class simulates working in a professional environment.  Your presence in the classroom is required just as you are required to show-up to work when an employee.

Your team will be relying on you. That said, please do not come to class if you are ill; or if weather conditions make it unsafe for you to get to campus (e.g., snowstorm). If you must miss class for any reason (Don't feel well, snow storm, etc.), it will be excused if you message me before class time. If you cannot message me before class due to extreme circumstances, please message me as soon as you are able. Also, be sure to clearly communicate absences with your team.

An unexcused absence from any class meeting will result in a 1% reduction of your final course professionalism grade.  Students more than 10 minutes late to class, or with excessive tardiness, may also be counted as absent. If you’re running late, send me a message before class time.

We welcome undocumented students in my class and any immigration-related absences can be accommodated.

Required Course Activities

Design Expo

A Design Expo will be held on Saturday, December 9th, 2023, allowing you an opportunity to showcase your functioning prototype to the public. External judges will evaluate each project and provide written feedback. You also have an opportunity to showcase a video pitch of your functioning prototype to the public (online). Your attendance at this event is mandatory. To be updated in 2024. 

Team Growth Activity

We will discuss the importance of individual skill and team growth between the intro and main design projects. As first-year engineering students, this is an ideal time to acquire and develop a variety of hands-on, teamwork, and communication skills that will enable success in this course and subsequent engineering assignments and design projects. Each team will develop a team plan for improving the overall team through individual skill acquisition and collaboration. The team growth plan will be presented in a written report, and team growth will be measured against the plan. Each student will also reflect upon their semester’s individual skill acquisition in an individual written reflection assignment. Together, the team growth plan report and reflection writing assignment will be worth 10-15% of the final course grade.

Spatial Visualization

Several “Spatial Visualization” activities will be assigned as homework and in-class throughout the semester and will total 5% of a student’s final course grade. More information will be presented during the semester.

Saws and Drills

Successful completion of the ‘Saws and Drills’ workshop in the ITLL Manufacturing Center is also required. Students must attend the Manufacturing Center Orientation and Safety Training prior to this workshop, which will be done in class. Afterwards, students sign up on the ITLL Workshop Site for the Saws and Drills workshop, offered twice a day, in groups of eight students. Saws and Drills will not be offered after week 4, so all students must complete this workshop before the end of week 4 of classes. Successful completion of the Saws and Drills workshop earns a student full points for 5% of the final course grade. Students who do not successfully complete the workshop on time receive zero points for 5% of the course grade.

Skill Building Workshops

Several other skills workshops throughout the semester will introduce you to some of the hands-on skills you will need to work on your projects, such as CAD, 3D printing, laser cutting, basic electrical circuits and safety and use of tools. At least one out of class skill-building workshops will be required, but you can complete more for extra credit. Some of these workshops are only offered through week 9 of the course. Please see the ITLP and Idea Forge websites to see currently-offered workshops.


The textbook for this course, “Introductory Engineering Design: A Projects-Based Approach,” is optional. It is available for free on-line at the following link: https://www.colorado.edu/program/ide/academics/resources/introductory-engineering-design-textbook

Course Resources & Building Policies

Some local CU Engineering resources that may be helpful in your projects.

What Who Where

Launch Point

First stop for ITLL & engineering questions related to 3D printer & Laser Cutting

Engineering Support Students

ITLL 110

South side of top floor

Consumables Closet

Miscellaneous consumable components for student use

Engineering Support Students

ITLL 151

North side of top floor

Lockers & Toolboxes

Questions about resources in your lockers or classrooms

Sa’Von Thompson


Manufacturing Center

General machine tools

Metal, plastic and wood. Saws, drills, mills, lathes. Pneumatic Hand tools.

Jenn Boggs

Mark Eaton


Project Depot

Additional hand tools for student use, project storage, extra workspace.

Natasha Ouellette

Humsini Acharya


Electronics Centers

Simulate, build (solder), and test electronic circuits and printed circuit boards, as well as working with microcontrollers such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Data Acquisition equipment & sensors are also available for programming and collecting measurement data

Lauren Darling

Jonah Spicher

Viri Varela

ECCE 167 & 168

Writing Center

Resources and help available to help you with your writing skills


Norlin Library



Building Policies

The First Year Projects classrooms serve all sections of GEEN 1400. They are excellent facilities and you are expected to maintain them in excellent condition. This means it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that the classroom and your work area in particular are cleaner than when you arrived. 

You should never paint inside the ITLL or on the patios, decks or sidewalks surrounding the ITLL. Place a painting tarp (from the south patio on the 2B basement-level) on a grassy area and paint well away from any permanent structures. Unused paint should be stored in the under-counter cabinet nearest to the entrance of the Manufacturing Center.