Creative Engineering Class

Sun, Jan 17, 2021 3-minute read


This is my output from taking Monthly’s Creative Engineering Class taught by Mark Rober.

During this 30-day class, learn the skills Mark uses to research, design, assemble, test, and engineer his inventions. This class meets you where you are and pushes your skills to new heights.

As with the last Monthly class I took, the most useful part of taking the class is having deadlines imposed on you to get stuff done, the rest of the interactions from “peers” that you are randomly assigned to is usually useless. Don’t expect to get any one on one teaching from an actual teacher, they expect the blind to lead the blind and hope that you don’t notice.

First Project

The first project I made was a coffee bean dispenser. Here are the steps the class goes through for creating something:


In the brainstorming phase, you first select an area you would like to work in; in this example the class picks things related to food. Next you think of scenes in your life where food comes up and write those down. Now you come back to these scenes and come up with problems that could arise.


Requirements and Research

Once you have the problem you want to focus on, you start gathering requirements. This is a sub-brainstorming sessions where you list out all the requirements for this solution. Once you are done, you come back and split the requirements into required and nice to have.

Take your required requirements and start listing out ways to accomplish each of them. If you don’t know how to do something you are listing out, then you need to add that to the lists of experiments you need to run to figure things out.


Running Experiments and Collecting Data

Now go off and run any experiments you need to; make sure to take notes along the way so you can look back on them when you are building your prototype. I had to run two experiments, one to figuring out how many coffee beans could fit in a volume, and second I had to figure out how to align a spring to close the dispenser hole when you let go of it.


Prototype Stage

After you have run all your experiments and have a good idea on how to move forward, you collect your scrap materials and start building a prototype. At this stage you are just sticking things together with hot glue and trying to get it to work.


Final Build

Once you have the prototype working, you move on to building the final version of your project. Here I printed out a bunch of parts on the 3dprinter (although I ran out of filament toward the end.) You know your finished when you have met all your requirements, and what you have is good enough to tell the story you are trying to tell.


Overview of the Process

I created this Infographic of the above process. It’s in an a5 format so I could paste it at the front of my sketchbook as a little reminder not to just jump to building something.