Course Overview

“Introduces first years to the process of team-based creative conceptualization, visualization prototyping, and product realization. Students use computer-aided design tools to create custom circuit boards and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machined components to produce prototype systems. Design concepts are introduced and supported through hands-on assignments.”

Engineering Innovation has been both my most challenging and my most rewarding class at Duke. This class pushed me far beyond what I thought I was capable of. Not only did I gain valuable technical skills that will be useful as a mechanical engineer, I learned how to work together with many different people within many different team dynamics.


This class was composed of five design challenges, a machining assignment, a CAD assignment, and a microcontroller assignment.

Design Challenges

Our first design challenge was to deconstruct a flashlight and identify its components and how they function both individually and as a unit. While fairly simple, this helped us discover how things are made and it turn prepared us to be able to make things for the rest of semester and beyond.

Fully decomposed flashlight

Our forth, and my favorite, design challenge was to create a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. Before deciding what our toy would be, we did a lot of research on what kinds of toys and what themes are attractive to the target audience of the Happy Meal toy- kids ages 4-9. Not only did this toy need to be appealing to kids, it also needed to be appealing to the adults who would be purchasing them. With the upcoming release of Incredibles 2 at the time of this project, we decided to create a 3-D Incredibles 2 themed puzzle. We thought the puzzle would be intellectually stimulating and the theme would promote sales.

Puzzle dimensions

Paper prototype of puzzle










After creating a successful prototype, we were able to design our final product using SolidWorks and 3D print it. The final toy includes a few components- an Incredibles 2 etched frame, 6 puzzle pieces, and a sticker sheet to apply to the pieces in order to complete the puzzle’s picture. Below is our final product.

Final puzzle (deconstructed)

Final puzzle (constructed)










In addition to designing the toy, we also had to do a cost analysis and launch a marketing campaign. Below is our marketing sheet.

Marketing sheet

For our final design challenge, we had to use the tools we had acquired throughout he semester to build a large Rube Goldberg machine. In individual teams of 3-4 people, we were responsible for creating two ‘SportBots’. These SportBots would receive a ball, activate an electrical sensor, and then pass the ball to another SportBot. Individual teams then came together to form a large group composed of 5 individual teams.

Our team decided upon a MarioKart themed machine and therefore my individual team’s responsibility was to create ‘Koopa Cape’ and ‘Wario’s Gold Mine’, two different lands in the popular video game.

Wario’s Gold Mine sketch


Koopa Cape sketch

Koopa Cape started the entire mechanism and was prompted by water being poured down the ‘waterfall’. I was responsible for wiring and integrating this circuit into the SportBot. Wario’s Gold Mine was prompted the second half of the machine. It was responsible for bringing the ball from ground level to about eye level. In order to do this we used a magnetic sensor that prompted and elevator that was controlled by a small motor winding up string.

Wario’s Gold Mine how/why circuit diagram

Koopa Cape how/why circuit diagram



Wario’s Gold Mine

By test day, we were able to integrate all the separate parts into a cohesive unit. While it was an extremely difficult process, it was extremely rewarding.

The team on test day

Here’s a video of it (almost) working:

Machining assignment- Flex Beam

We were tasked with constructing an electromechanical “FlexBeam” device that measures mechanical strain when you deflect a thin metal beam. To accomplish this, I spent many hours in the Pratt Student Machine Shop. We were given a few drawings (pictured below) and had to take it from there.

Tower drawing

Base drawing

Beam drawing

I began by drilling holes in a 301 Stainless Steel beam using a CNC mill. Next, I drilled and tapped holes into the base also using the CNC mill. Lastly on the CNC mill, I drilled six holes into the tower. After drilling all of the holes, I threaded those that needed to be threaded and began assembling it. I screwed both the beam and the base into the tower.  After it was assembled, I adhered the strain gauge to the beam. I was then able to test beam deflection.



This class has been one of my most valuable experiences at Duke. Not only did I gain technical skills such as gaining exposure to the machine shop, designing through CAD, building circuits, and programming microcontrollers, I also learned to effectively work in a group. I worked on each design challenge with a different group of people- some of which were really collaborative and others that were not. This taught me how to assess team dynamic and adjust to all types of situations. Another really valuable part of this class was the documentation for all of the assignments. We were required to write executive summaries and marketing analyses, exposing us to a more professional side of engineering. This class enhanced my skills as a creative thinker, engineer, and teammate- all things that will serve very valuable for my completion of this certificate and my life as a mechanical engineer.