Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session

Course Information

This course provides an integrated approach to engineering practice in the real world. Students of 6.933J research the life cycle of a major engineering project, new technology, or startup company from multiple perspectives: technical, economic, political, and cultural. Research involves interviewing inventors, reading laboratory notebooks, evaluating patents, and looking over the shoulders of engineers as they developed today's technologies. This subject is for students who recognize that technical proficiency alone is only part of the formula for success in technology.


(available through

Buy at Amazon Latour, Bruno. Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, October 1988. ISBN: 9780674792913.

Buy at MIT Press Buy at Amazon MacKenzie, Donald. Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance. Reprint ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, January 29, 1993. ISBN: 9780262631471.

Buy at Amazon Christensen, Clayton. The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary National Bestseller That Changed The Way We Do Business. 1st ed. New York, NY: HarperBusiness, May 2, 2000. ISBN: 9780066620695.

Buy at Amazon Tufte, Edward. Visual & Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Decision Making. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, April 1997. ISBN: 9780961392130.

Buy at Amazon ———. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, February 1997. ISBN: 9780961392130.

Prerequisites / EC Credit

Course is limited to fifth-year M. Eng. students, graduate students in STS, or others by permission of instructor. For EECS M. Eng. students, subject will automatically count as one of the two EC electives that can come from any of the seven Engineering Concentration fields. Alternatively M. Eng. students may by petition use it as an elective in a specific EC if they have chosen a term project on a topic appropriate to that EC. We cannot guarantee in advance that all EC's will be represented.

Lectures and Seminar

(20%: attendance, preparation, participation)

Attendance is mandatory at lectures. Bring the books with the week's reading to class each week, as they will be referred to in discussion. Lectures will meet regularly for about the first half of the term. Then, students will be divided into groups to work on term projects. Significant in-class time is then devoted to discussion and work on projects.


Handouts will be available at the beginning of lecture.

Discussion Papers

(30%, 3 papers, 10 points each)

A series of two-page discussion papers serve as the basic "problem sets." Some will have specific assignments whereas others will be more open format. They are due at the beginning of class. All writing assignments will be graded on force of argument, clarity of presentation and relevance to course material. We may ask for writing assignments to be submitted in ASCII via email as well. Any writing may appear anonymously on the website, at the discretion of the instructors. Proper citation practices should be followed throughout (ask if you are unsure of the details). See additional writing assignment handout sheet for more information.

Term Project

(50% of final grade)

The latter half of the term is largely taken up with group work on writing a project history of the development of a significant technology. Students will be divided up into groups, and each group will be assigned a particular project to study, and given a set of relevant materials (i.e. books, papers, phone numbers of individuals) to get the research started. A day before the 18th session, groups should submit a plan of research for the term project, including overarching themes and questions and research strategy. Significant in-class time will then be devoted to the project, and preparing a project history (~20 pages, 6000 words) written collaboratively by the group. Groups will present their projects to the entire class during the last three or four sessions. We will provide more guidelines as the time approaches.


Grades will be apportioned as follows:

50% Term Project
30% Discussion Papers
20% Attendance, Preparation, Participation

Late submissions of any assignments lose one letter grade per day, with no assignments accepted more than five days late without prior permission of instructor.

Halfway through the term, we will issue a preliminary grade, with suggestions for improvement for the remainder of the semester.