Skip to content Skip to navigation

Course Overview

When and how the class is offered in COVID

In 2020-2021, ME170 a/b will be held over Winter and Spring quarters, to align with when senior-year students will be able to be on campus.  We are planning for students to be able to build and test their hardware in a means compliant with state, county, and university guidelines.  Course instruction will be done virtually, as will all coaching sessions.  Students will have the opportunity to order materials, build their systems, and test.  

Students attending ME170 a/b must complete both quarters of the course sequentially in the same academic year to receive credit for either quarter.



ME 170 a/b is the culmination of the Mechanical Engineering BS degree at Stanford University.  The 2-quarter long course sequence will provide students the experience of working on teams of 3-4 students with complementary skillsets within ME, working on engineering design projects focused in themes that address the most pressing needs of human society.  Themes, such energy, transportation, and health will rotate through the course; the focus areas for AY 2019-2020 are energy and health.

The course utilizes an iterative approach to technical need-finding, establishing design requirements, designing, prototyping, testing, and analyzing, resulting in a functional solution that meets design requirements by the end of 2 quarters. 

Students learn skills in engineering design, teamwork, project management, engineering development process, and communication, while evaluating their projects for ethical, environmental, sustainability, health, and population considerations.

This course has been designated as a Cardinal Course by the Haas Center for Public Service. Cardinal Courses apply classroom knowledge to pressing social and environmental problems through reciprocal community partnerships. The units received through this course can be used towards the 12-unit requirement for the Cardinal Service transcript notation.


Course Objectives

Upon completion of this sequence, students of ME 170 a/b will be able to

  • Deliver an engineering system addressing a real-world problem, using (1) the engineering analysis and design skills learned through the first 3 years of their undergraduate education, in conjunction with (2) the engineering design process taught in ME 170 a/b.  Solutions must be tested against design requirements. 
  • Work as part of a team to design and develop an engineering system.  Students bring their technical expertise, rely on and collaborate with teammates, to engineer a system.  Learn industry practices in the engineering development process, and project management skills such as Gantt charts, critical path, and budgets. 
  • Assess the impact of engineering solutions on the world.  Students will work on projects associated with pressing needs of human society, and broaden their perspectives to consider and assess ethical, sustainability, health, environmental, and societal impact of their projects. 
  • Learn and apply professional communication skills: oral, presentation, written documentation, listening.  Teams will gain training in listening, and utilize communications skills in the areas of (1) determining the specifics of the problem they are solving, (2) assessing how best to communicate the benefits of the problem they are solving and their proposed solution to non-technical audiences, while (3) developing skills for communicating complex topics to both peers and experts.  Students will summarize their work in design reviews, presentations, and reports.