Engineering for Impact (Spring 2024)

You are not logged in.

Please Log In for full access to the web site.
Note that this link will take you to an external site ( to authenticate, and then you will be redirected back to this page.


Welcome to the course website for 6.900 Engineering for Impact. We will populate this site with information as the term approaches.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the class, reach out to Joel or Joe, or check out this story from the 2023 offering.

Although the course is denoted as 6.9000 in the course catalog, eventually we'll drop the trailing zero, so will refer to the class informally as 6.900.

What is this class about?

In this class we'll integrate our knowledge from 6-2 core subjects to design complete systems that incorporate hardware and software. So we'll learn, in the HW/SW context, how to develop requirements and specifications for a system, then use those specifications to partition systems into subsystems, how to assign functionality to hardware or software, how to manage data and energy, and so on. We'll learn a bit about mechanical design, industrial design, and so on as needed to create our systems.

To guide our learning, we'll undertake a large-scale group project to develop a complete system to meet the needs of a partner institution (we'll reveal the partner during the first week of class). We expect to design and build real systems that really encompass the full stack: from sensors and electronics, to microcontrollers with embedded firmware, to a server system that integrates data across multiple sensor systems, to a data dashboard to visualize the data, to the industrial design that interacts with the installer and user.

We'll also use a guided project -- where we'll design/build a smaller-scale HW/SW system -- in the first half of the term to learn about many of the fundamentals and skills that we'll apply to the group project.

In the course of doing all this, you'll learn some practical skills, like how to do PCB design/layout and surface mount component assembly; how manage & measure energy in edge devices, how to set up a server machine, web server, and db from scratch, and how to design/draw/3Dprint enclosures. You'll also learn how to evaluate different technologies to attain a functional goal, and how to work in teams. You'll have an authentic experience to talk about with potential employers, and confidence that comes from designing & building a real system.

That's alot of stuff. Why learn everything, I just want to focus on [SWE, electronics, data science, etc.]?

In industry you'll be part of a team, and you're right that you'll initially focus on part of a system (unless you're the co-founder and technical lead for a startup!). But it's incredibly useful to get a sense of how all the parts fits together. This will help you and your team work better with the rest of the organization. In fact, this class was inspired in part from conversations with alumni and industry execs who emphasized the importance of understanding how subsystem tradeoffs affect overall system design.

What requirements does this class fulfill?

This is a core class in the new 6-2 degree. It is also an AUS2, II, DLAB in 6-1, 6-3, 6-4, and old 6-2.

What does impact mean?

There are many many cool HW/SW systems out in the wild, from Apple Watches to EVs. Here we're specifically focused on helping a partner institution, which might be a non-profit or governmental entity that could really benefit from our expertise. We'll provide more details the first week of class.

What background do I need?

In steady state this class will have strict pre-reqs of all three 6-2 core classes: 6.200[6.002], 6.310[6.302], and 6.191[6.004]. For this offering, we are relaxing pre-requesites: 6.200 and 6.191, or permission of instructors. If you're interested in taking the class but unsure of pre-reqs, you can reach out to [Joel](