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MIT student blogger Gabe B. '13

16.810 Rapid Design and Prototyping by Gabe B. '13

8 days to build an airplane. Intrigued?

If you’re considering MIT, you probably like to build things. Throughout my childhood, a small walk in closet in the basement of my house was dedicated to LEGOs. I have three brothers, so we racked up quite a few LEGO sets (likely well over 10,000 lego pieces by my 13th birthday!). Birthdays and Christmas were the only days of the year on which we’d actually build according to LEGO instruction manuals; As soon as we completed the actual official LEGO design, we’d rip it apart and build something new and creative. I remember building color coded Transformers, Pokemen, countless spaceships, and even Ironman himself.

Then 8 years passed. Three weeks ago, I got to do the same thing! Except instead of LEGOs, we started with a model RC airplane called the Parkzone Radian. And instead of my basement closet, we used the course 16 lab which is decked out with foam cutters, all types of CNC machines, a composite fabrication corner, a waterjet cutter and various other tools. We assembled the plane right out of the box, but then were given 8 days to completely redesign the airplane. This was one of the coolest classes I’ve ever taken. I learned a lot about the creative design process (brainstorming, concept selection, 3d modeling, analysis, optimization, rapid prototyping, analysis, testing, and presentation) and I learned a lot about my friends and teammates- Jamie and Mike (featured in the video).

16.810 is offered each IAP, and I certainly plan on taking it again next January. It’s sort of a shortened version of 2.007- a mechanical engineering class offered in the spring in which we design and build robots (and that I’m in now- more on that later). As part of our final presentation for 16.810, we made a short video. Here it is for you to enjoy! If you want to download the CAD model, or see more information about our project, check out:


13 responses to “16.810 Rapid Design and Prototyping”

  1. Eric says:

    man, you have the most epic blog posts! Keep it up.

    Oh yeah….FIRST!!! (for once)

  2. Setareh says:

    What is the problem with landing?

  3. Mike Klinker says:

    @2 – That was some good old pilot error


  4. Eugene Abbey says:

    Oh my God i love this very much,makes me want to come to MIT..Good job guys.

  5. Obadiah Peterson says:

    You remind me of my childhood. I had both legos and meccano parts and kits. I too reutilized legos after once constructing them. I have a large tote full of them. I would have to say my favorite kit i had was a tank kit. It had awesome treads and its treads could actually move if you pushed it. They were not stationary. I ended up reusing those treads for making my own tank model. Now ive moved on and build robots with Tetrix aluminum parts. It embraces the same principles in my childhood love of legos like you. I am curious though, which kit would you call your favorite you have put together that you remember?

  6. Nilanjan says:

    Thumbs up!
    Great job!

  7. Rachel F. '12 says:

    freakin awesomeeee

  8. anonymous says:

    …manuels? really?

  9. Gabe B. '13 says:

    @anonymous – Thanks

    I will respond in a day or two to Obadiah and others… I’m swamped with work right now!

  10. Narendran Muraleedharan says:

    The last plane I made, both the wings snapped off in mid air! I couldn’t test my autopilot system on it :(

  11. MIT EC '85 says:

    What were the requirements that drove the design? What were you trying to maximize and minimize?

  12. M.SB. says:



  13. Mom 2 Brick Head says:

    this is the experience my child wants to have at MIT! a dedicated LEGO creator, gundam builder, robot fan, and astronaut wannabe, she is pursuing mechanical engineering to achieve her dreams. thanks for the inspiration and confirmation of what is possible