Olin College Student Courses

At Olin College, students can run and enroll in courses of their own design. This page provides background, and helps document courses that have already been run.

About Olin College


Olin College is an undergraduate engineering school near Boston, MA. The school has approximately 300 students, and puts an emphasis on experimentation in pedagogy. This section from Olin's Wikipedia article helps explain:

"Olin College attempts to set itself apart from traditional engineering schools through its focus on project-based and team-based learning, its interdisciplinary approach, its unique organizational structure, and its practice of providing full-tuition scholarships to all accepted students. Because Olin College is a new school, it has little institutional inertia to overcome when adopting new practices.

"Much of Olin College's curriculum is built around hands-on engineering and design projects. This project-based teaching begins in a student's freshman year and culminates in two senior "capstone" projects. In the engineering capstone, Senior Capstone Program in Engineering (SCOPE) student teams are hired by corporations, non-profit organizations, or entrepreneurial ventures for real-world engineering projects. In the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences ("AHS") or Entrepreneurship ("E!") capstone, students work on a self-designed project relating to their focus."

Student Courses


Spring 2010

  • Leverage - Seeks to foster skills that let small teams have large impacts.

Fall 2009 (course proposals)

  • Black Bag - A survey of questionable computing.
  • Vital Ideation 2.0 - Vital Ideation focused on the idea of viewing the world through different "lenses" to influence design. External speakers are invited to Olin to give talks, and students blog about how these inform their views on design.
  • Introduction to 3D Art - A quick and dirty, hands-on introduction to 3D sculpture
  • Hindi 101 - An introductory Hindi course.

Spring 2009 (course proposals)


We will be narrowing these down and turning them into more serious proposals over the coming weeks.

Passionate Pursuit proposals


Fall 2008

  • OLPC peripheral development - This course focuses on development of hardware (generally USB) peripherals for use with the OLPC XO. Students will work in small teams, and meet periodically with the entire group for guest lectures and design reviews.

Spring 2008

  • Vital Ideation - Vital Ideation focused on the idea of viewing the world through different "lenses" to influence design. External speakers were invited to Olin to give talks, and student blogged about how these informed their views on design.
  • How Stuff Works - How Stuff Works focused on learning through disassembly. Throughout the semester the two sections (electrical and mechanical) took apart everyday objects to understand how they worked, researched mechanisms found within them, and developed a final project constructing something that applied the knowledge gained from these exercises.

Spring 2007

  • MetaOlin - Meta-Olin was a fusion of a humanities course and an engineering course. It examined Olin College from many different engineering and humanities perspectives over the semester to see how different views can provide different insights.



Spring 2009


What Do You Want to Learn About?


It's kind of like that wall from the movie Accepted.

  • Humanities Sampler - analyze the same theme from many humanities lenses.