Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alternative Energy Design/Build Syllabus

Text Box: Zach


This course is for people who are interested in the process of invention and want to have a hand-on relationship with that process. DIY culture will be used as a model for work ethic, and personal satisfaction. For inspiration we will look at examples such as the first Gutenberg printing press, communities living off the energy grid, and other forms of alternative energy production.

Half of every class and the last 3 weeks will be dedicated to making machines that will produce energy. Each student will be responsible for designing a machine they can use on a daily basis to power small electronics, such as cell phones or iPods. Each machine will be unique to the inventor.

Material Lab fee of $40 is required for each student.


Upon completion of this course students will understand the historical and contemporary motivation behind DIY culture, and how those ideas can function on a practical level. Students will be able to safely design and build their own energy production machines based on knowledge of historical experiments, current surrounding conditions and their personal interests.

While building their machines, students will gain knowledge on how to safely use both hand tools and power tools in an effective way. The skills taught in this course will give each student the opportunity to become an inventor, so when improvements need to be made on their machine they can pin point the problem, research the reason, and improve their design.

Community Connection

After the class has ended and the machines are being used in the inventor’s daily life there will be conversations outside of the classroom that happen because of the machine they are using. By having an intimate design/build/use relationship with that machine, they will be able to educate people on their creation and what purpose it serves in their life.

On the weekend of May 1 there will be a series of workshops at the Seachange Gallery where students from this course will teach how to build the machines they built in class. The projects will be documented and presented at Portland State for the last two weeks in May.


Your grade is based on your performance in this class, which includes not only the quality of what you produce, but also how you contribute to the class through participation.

Each project will receive a letter grade based on:
25% - craftsmanship & presentation
25% - ambition & work ethic
25% - experimentation
25% - documentation to class blog

Final course evaluation will be based on:
25% - class participation

25% - Blog posting
25% - Instructable Project
25% - Final Project

Grading scale

A (100-94%), A- (93-90%), B+ (89-87%), B (86-84%), B- (83-80%), C+ (79- 77%), C (76-74%)
C- (73-70%), D+ (69-67%), D (66-64%), D- (63-60%), F (59-0%)

Extra Credit

Almost every Monday night there is an artist lecture at 7:30 in Shattack Hall Annex. If you attend one of these and write a brief page response to the lecture you can receive 2 extra credit points towards final grade.

Write an artists statement and post it on the class blog for 2 extra credit points towards final grade.

Class Schedule

Week 1

Jan 4 Look over syllabus. Introduction to Woodshop with Eric Franklin

Jan 8 Talk about blog (, discuss carbon footprints

HW: Make a list of all the personal electronics you use in a day, use a carbon footprint calculator to find what yours is in a day, post what you found on blog

Week 2

Jan 11 Guttenberg’s printing press.

HW: Find a project on you could make and use in your daily life. Write a short blog post about the project and link to the instructable. Gather materials and tools needed to make the instructable and bring to class.

Jan 15 Work day

HW: Finish instructable, post results on blog. Bring project to class on 22nd.

Week 3

Jan 18 Martin Luther King Day, no class

Jan 22 Talk about projects, discuss the processes.

HW: Read Temporary Services: DIY, write notes and questions for discussion.

Week 4

Jan 25 DIY reading discussion. Plan field trip to The Rebuilding Center. Start brainstorming machines as a class.

HW: Post 3 ideas for machines you could build on blog.

Jan 29 Field trip to The Rebuilding Center, get lunch together.

Week 5

Feb 1 Look at blog posts, discuss ideas, narrow each set of 3 down to 1

HW: Start designing machine, bring drawings to class.

Feb 5 Class discussion of designs

HW: Make improvements on design. Post on blog about your proposed machine and the materials needed.

Week 6

Feb 8 Discuss materials needed and where they can be found.

HW: Gather materials

Feb 12 Work day in woodshop

Week 7

Feb 15 Work day in woodshop

Feb 19 No class

Week 8

Feb 22 Work day in woodshop

Feb 26 Work day in woodshop

Week 9

Mar 1 Work day in woodshop

Mar 5 Work day in woodshop

Week 10

Mar 8 Class presentations of machines

Mar 12 Class presentations of machines. Course evaluations

***This syllabus is not a contract and can change due to circumstances.

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