Adafruit is a fan of Charles Guan and his projects and have had him on Ask an Engineer this past summer. Here’s an interesting piece from Eric Weinhoffer at MAKE that makes a strong case for viewing Charles Guan‘s trademark MIT electric vehicle classes as a direction to take engineering education: facing off traditional engineering theoretical knowledge against real world execution. Guan challenges students to design, source, build, and test actual electric vehicles — sharpening their understanding of concepts while also learning valuable lessons from the hardware startup world:
Charles Guan is not a typical engineer. He not only makes electric vehicles very well, but is currently inspiring and teaching students as an instructor in a class he created. His mission is to give engineering students a meaningful hardware experience as early in their career as possible, by requiring them to work through the challenges of sourcing parts and building something reasonably complex – a working electric vehicle. The class has now been successfully run three times, with the current curriculum based around two-person teams, each of which is allocated a budget, access to a well-equipped shop, and a semester to build (and compete with) their vehicle.
Of course, getting people interested in the class isn’t hard, especially with the hum of electric motors and joyous students zipping around the halls in scooters or go-karts. Charles has been building electric vehicles for years and has slowly built up a following of individuals with similarly-built scooters and karts (who’ve traveled to Maker Faire, as seen above). By initially assisting in a special section of the 2.007 Mechanical Engineering class at MIT, and eventually taking it over to become an instructor, Charles has been able to continue shepherding engineering students off to go-karting glory.
So, why does all this matter? Well, I believe the way Charles has been teaching this course is the exact way more engineering courses should be taught, and I’d like to entertain the idea that this could end up being a model for other schools to follow in the future….