Systems Engineering and Machine Architecture Activity

This course on systems engineering and machine architecture weaves a variety of activities including problem sets and coding exercises, to create a more applicable experience for the students.

Goal: The goal of the in-class activities is to form a bridge from the conceptual material the course presents to the nuts and bolts of writing programs that apply the concepts. Put another way, the problem we were solving is the all too familiar situation where a student listens passively in class, thinking that s/he understands the material, and then when confronted with the problem set, has no idea how to get started.


This course included a number of exercises which varied between written problems, design exercises, coding exercises, code-reading, posing questions for one another, etc. In total, there were 6 programming projects. Each class has a set of pre-class readings and/or videos – Videotaped lectures and "pre-class prep" can be found at the following site: In-class material can be found here: Problem sets appear here: Students all bring their laptops and can click on the day of the class meeting to get instructions for the day.


Before class.

  • The instructor designed the pre-class videos, the in-class exercises, and the problem sets as a coordinated whole so that all three parts connected. While preparing the videos, the instructor would develop the accompanying in-class exercise, both of which were designed to prepare student to undertake problems sets.

In class.

  • Students formed their own groups. The instructor started class by reviewing questions from the pre-class work before proceeding to the activity.


  • The instructor insists that an enormous amount of work goes into preparation of this class. It is thus essential that pre-class work, in-class activities, and homework integrate seamlessly to produce a coherent "story line".


Submitted by Margo Seltzer, Computer Science