In response to a perceived lack of practical design experience for students, many universities have begun introducing new project-based courses into the curriculum. However, despite the growing recognition of its importance in engineering education, there is still little agreement over how best to teach design. Time and budget constraints present obstacles to providing students with the opportunity to apply their engineering skills to design, build, and test mechanical devices.
To address these issues, we have conducted an in-depth assessment of resource needs in a range of mechanical design courses and identified a set of requirements and guidelines for the development of successful learning environments. As a demonstration of these guidelines we have developed an educational soft robotics toolkit consisting of hardware and software modules and related documentation. This toolkit has been pilot tested and refined in a medical device design course at Harvard. In the next stage of this research we will invite students, educators, and researchers at other institutions to make use of, and contribute to the development of, the soft robotics toolkit.