Course Pedagogy

This section describes the Experimental Projects course sequence. The logistics of running 16.621 and 16.622 in parallel, and the differences between them, are explained.


16.621 and 16.622 are each one-semester courses. They must be taken in order, and are generally taken consecutively. 16.621 Experimental Projects I is offered every semester. 16.622 is offered in parallel, every semester, by the same teaching staff. Students can begin the two-semester sequence in either the Fall or the Spring, and complete it during the next semester. The sequence is illustrated below.

Select Partner
Select Project and Advisor
Statement of Project
Hypothesis, Objective(s), Success Criteria
Literature Review
Experimental Definition
Measurement Methods and Systems
Data Reduction Procedures
Detailed Experiment Design
Equipment Specification
Apparatus/Software Design
Project Planning

Oral/Written Project Proposal


Construct Apparatus/Write Software
Take Preliminary Data
Collect and Reduce Data
Analyze Data
Oral/Written Conference Presentation


Course Structure


Newly enrolled in 16.621 Experimental Projects I, students attend lectures, select partners, and seek out a project and a faculty advisor. [Weeks 1, 2.]

Teams ratify their chosen project and identify its focus through faculty guidance and literature review, while attending lectures in experimental design regularly.

Teams meet regularly with their faculty advisor, working out experimental details and requirements, including hypotheses, material needs, instrumentation, required measurements, analysis methods, error estimation, budgeting and scheduling. All of these details are assembled in the final Design Proposal.

Students submit a draft of their Design Proposal [Week 4], which they revise throughout the semester using feedback from the teaching staff. Each student's third version is 16.621's final deliverable. [Week 15.]

Lab notebooks are submitted for review three times during the semester. [Weeks 5, 8, 12.]

Each team delivers an Oral Proposal to the course faculty and the department's technical instructors. Their feedback helps to anticipate experimental hazards or pitfalls, and to confirm that the proposed experiment can be completed within the time and resource constraints imposed by 16.622. [Week 8.]

By the conclusion of 16.621, each team's experimental design should possess sufficient detail that implementation can proceed directly.


Students commencing 16.622 Experimental Projects II begin setting-up their experiments almost immediately. Time is limited, and each team will have carefully allotted it in the schedule in their design proposal.

Teams collect materials to implement their experimental systems. Where lead times are excessive, some equipment may be ordered before the start of the semester, but assembly does not begin in earnest until the semester starts. Experiments may be set-up in various institute laboratories, or student learning labs, depending upon necessary resources. Use of these resources is accounted for in each team's budget.

Each team continues to meet regularly with its faculty advisor. Two scheduled team meetings occur during the semester [Weeks 2, 8], attended by the students, their advisor, and the course faculty.

Lab notebooks are submitted for review three times during the semester [Weeks 4, 7, 11]. The final notebook submission coincides with the last day to collect data, to enforce this deadline.

Students deliver an oral progress report [Week 5] and a final oral presentation [Week 13]. Their 16.621 counterparts, taking 16.621 Experimental Projects I in parallel, attend these presentations.

The final deliverable for 16.622 is a Final Report [Week 15]. It includes sufficient details of the experimental method that the experiment could be replicated by others. In addition, it contains observations and conclusions supported by all relevant data, and discussion of their validity.

A poster session is held at the close of the semester [Week 15], to showcase the work of each team, having completed both 16.621 and 16.622. The event is open to the public, and students completing 16.621 at the same time are encouraged to attend.