Rapid Design and Innovation Prototype (almost) Anything?

Upcoming dates (1)

Oct. 23-25, 2023

Madison, WI

Course Overview

This project-based, hands-on course will teach participants the purpose of prototyping and how to select the best prototyping approach. They will learn to create physical prototypes ranging from low-fidelity (sketching, cardboard, tape) to higher fidelity using tools like Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, electronics, 3D printing, laser cutting and other additive and subtractive manufacturing tools.

Participants will learn the tools through the fabrication of a desk lamp, which has components made using CAD, 3D printing, laser cutting, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) routing. Participants will be guided through a tutorial for each of the lamp components, but will then design and fabricate their own (DIY) projects using each of the tools.

The course will take place in the Grainger Engineering Design + Innovation Labs. Click here and here to see the facilities and prototyping equipment that will be used in this course.

Who Should Attend?

Anyone who is interested in learning how to solve problems through prototyping and user testing. No technical background is required, though the fast pace of the course will require the students to quickly learn and apply the techniques presented.

Additional Information

At the completion of this course, participants will be able to use a wide range of rapid prototyping tools at an introductory level. These tools include:

  • Sketching
  • Quick mockups (cardboard, tape)
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) software
  • 3D printing
  • Laser cutting
  • Sensors and microcontrollers
  • Woodworking
  • Metalworking (mill, lathe, welding)

Participants will also learn how to use prototyping:

  • To reduce risk within a broader design process.
  • Within a Design Thinking framework.

Course Outline

Schedule: 9 am-4 pm CT with a 1 hour break for lunch

Day 1:


  • Warm-up prototyping activity
  • Lecture and discussion of prototyping as a process


  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) software - Part I
  • Laser cutter training and fabrication (lamp parts)
  • DIY laser cutter project assigned


Day 2:


  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) software - Part II (lamp knobs)
  • Introduction to 3D printing
  • Print knobs, DIY 3D printing project assigned


  • Machine shop demonstrations (mill, lathe, welding)
  • Time to work on DIY projects, feedback from instructors


Day 3:


  • Introduction to electronics
  • Solder LED light and microcontroller


  • DIY electronics project
  • Work time for DIY projects, optionally further customize lamp
  • Final showcase!


Lennon Rodgers

Lennon Rodgers is the Director of the Design Innovation Lab at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which includes a makerspace, machine shop and a set of interdisciplinary design programs. He earned his PhD and M.S. from MIT and B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (all mechanical engineering). Previously he worked at MIT as a Research Scientist and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an engineer. All of his research is related to engineering education and modeling, designing, building, instrumenting and testing complex systems ranging from spacecraft to electric vehicles. 

Nicole Zacharia

Dr. Zacharia has a background in materials science, with both a bachelor's degree and a PhD in the subject from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her student days were followed by postdoctoral studies at the University of Toronto, time as an assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University, and most recently before joining UW-Madison, time at the University of Akron as an assistant then associate professor of Polymer Engineering.

In addition to teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels, Dr. Zacharia's interests have included research in polyelectrolyte coacervation as well as novel types of surfaces with special wettability, working on various federally and privately funded research projects. She has published over 40 papers in various international materials and chemistry journals. She has been an actively member of the American Chemical Society, including serving on the executive editorial board for one of its journals.

Upcoming dates (1)

Program Director

Nicole Zacharia

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