The Senior Design Project

Your team's job is to design, prototype, and build a new mechanical device.

System requirements



Each project milestone (and fabrication project, FP1-FP3) will be worth 12 points per week. (So a milestone 2 weeks in duration is worth twice as much as a milestone 1 week in duration.) For each day (or fraction thereof) a project milestone is late, you will lose 1 point (before scaling), so a milestone that is 12 days late is worth 0 points. To receive credit for a milestone, your work must also meet the milestone requirements, which are published at the start of the milestone, or possibly earlier. For example, if a milestone requires creation of a proof of concept, and you don't make one, you lose credit, roughly in proportion to the fraction of the requirements unsatisfied. For group projects with N people per group, you should do roughly 1/N of the work.

If you complete all the milestones on time within the requirements, or at least 95% of that, you have earned an A. If you hit around 85%, that's a B. You can calculate the details if you want, but the main message is that you should complete all the milestones, and you should do them on time.

On the one hand, this sounds kind of tough. On the other hand, if you actually like building stuff, you will do fine. We have a wide spectrum of experience in this class, and people choose projects with differing levels of difficulty. Note that the project requirements do not include any kind of performance target (like, "make a robot that can run faster than 18 mph"), but rather broad categorical requirements, like "You must make a proof-of-concept prototype." In this example, I do care whether you made a legitimate attempt to build a proof of concept; it may well be that your concept fails, because that's based largely on your level of experience relative to what you're attempting to build. My goal is to get you to try to build ambitious projects in a few broad categories, not cross some arbitrary threshold that would be easy for some of you and intensely difficult for others.


The Department of Mechanical Engineering will cover up to $100 per student (so $400 for a four-person team) for project expenses.

Project storage

During the semester, you will be allocated a storage shelf in Bray, Nolop, or Blake where you can keep your prototype and related materials. After the semester ends, either you can take your device back to your dorm room, or I will lovingly place it in the dumpster for you on December 19th (the last day of finals).

Materials and other resources available

In addition to your project budget, we will have prototyping materials available for you to use. These will include foamcore, cardboard, lots of pink and blue foam, acrylic and aluminum. Most of this will be available in Bray or Nolop.

We also have the potential to get fancy materials or hardware from a few vendors that have a long-term interest in befriending Tufts students. In particular, Igus, which makes high-end linear bearings and other cool hardware for robotics, is interested in supporting your projects. There are sample kits of their stuff in Bray; James Aronson, who works in the shop, can tell you all about it.

For those of you thinking about an electromechanical tool, I have a large collection of microcontrollers and sensors used for my electronics class; I'm happy to share that stuff as well.

We are also well-connected in the larger ecosystem of Boston makerspaces; if Tufts doesn't have something you need, we can probably get you access to a space that has what you need.

A note about general resourcefulness

Engineering is hard, and you are adults. It is fairly easy to get discouraged and think that this class is too overwhelming or unstructured. It is both of those things, but the answer is to be resourceful and resilient in the face of that adversity.

You have a great opportunity before you, in which you can try building something the world has never seen. You can also probably skate by without really putting your heart into it. You will get out of this project roughly what you put into it; I strongly recommend trying harder than usual, especially on this final project.