Course-Based Projects

As part of every Olin course, learning is taken out of the realm of academic theory and put into practice through hands-on learning. Students engage in individual and team projects and devise incredibly innovative solutions to problems. And while the results are seriously impressive, that doesn’t mean that students don’t have a lot of fun along the way. Here are a few examples:


For their Principles of Engineering class, a group of students created the AutoFrost automatic cake decorator, which allows people to create cakes up to 11x13”. After entering some stats, such as size and color, amateurcake-makers use a paint program to design their cake with a custom-coded app. The cake designer then controls the AutoFrost robot, choosing things like the positioning and dispensation rate of the frosting nozzle. The finished product was featured on several online tech blogs, including and

Underactuated Hands

In Introduction to Mechanical Prototyping, student teams designed, built and debugged original mechanical systems over the course of a 14-week semester. You can see a photo gallery of their work, including an underactuated robotic hand. For this project, teams generated three prototypes of these hands using laser-cut plywood, sheet metal and 3D printing; final prototypes were mounted to a robotic arm and entered into a grasping competition.

Weather Balloon

Four freshmen designed and built a weather balloon system to measure the high-altitude atmosphere for a Real World Measurements project. The group created an apparatus with a 20-foot meteorological balloon, a parachute and a payload box made with expanding foam. Inside the box was a circuit board and DAQ, an RC logger, a Canon PowerShot camera, a SPOT GPS, a phone with Boost Mobile GPS, external batteries and several foot warmers to keep the batteries warm in cold air. The group tested the balloon extensively before its maiden voyage and retrieved it from a small forest, where it landed safely many miles away.