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Little AM/FM radio you can build!
This is a little AM/FM radio that you can build!

Dream It, Build It!

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The world is filled with electronic devices! There seem to be more and more all the time. Wouldn’t it be cool to hack and build stuff? Bend electronics to your will? Cloud connect your own stuff?

Dream It, Build It is a great place to start. Designed for folks with no experience, it will take you from zero to capable in short order. We will show you some of the worst kept secrets of how things are built and help you build stuff of your own.

We’ll start out with some basics about how to build things, how to measure things, how to hook stuff together and end up being able to make cloud-connected gizmos.

During the first two weeks, we’re going to show you the ropes. You’ll learn how to:

  • build stuff fast (rapid prototyping)
  • make stuff do what you want - blink a light, move a motor, make a noise, measure something, take a picture
  • move data around - pass data to the cloud, control something from the cloud, start analyzing data in the cloud.

Then, in the third week, you build something of your own! No doubt, you will be excited to share what you’ve built so there will be a Demo Day where you get to show off your super cool gizmo!

You don’t have to come up with a project by yourself; we’ll have some projects you can build, modify or extend to satisfy your whims. 

Potential Projects

Impact Monitor   

A system with an accelerometer, data logger, and wireless communication link to monitor and record accelerations experienced during athletic activities.  This is an active research area here at Stanford, with the recent concern for concussions.

Traffic Monitor   

Traffic monitoring for number of cars, speed, and license plate photos of offending drivers.  A simple radar (that you would build) is the sensor, along with a cell phone camera to take the picture.  Again, data logging and wireless communications will enable data reporting.

Uber Radio   

An active smart speaker set that allows music streaming and responsive illumination (music streaming from your phone + an Internet radio + lots of sound responsive lighting). Multiple units could be used to provide ambient audio / lighting for a dorm room.

Your Own Project   

We’ll help you scope, design, buy stuff and build your dream machine!

Course Structure 

There are no prerequisites but some minimal programming experience would be helpful. Since you will work in groups this is not essential for every student. Oh, and there won’t be any papers, exams, or stuff like that. It’s all about building stuff and making it work so your grade will be determined by a combination of participation (showing up, quality and quantity of questions, helping your team and others, etc.) and your presentation on Demo Day.  There will also be field trips, and other activities.

This is not for the faint of heart! This is an immersive program that will bring out your inner Maker and let you work out on some pretty cool stuff!

Meet the Instructors

John Pauly

Reid Weaver Dennis Professor

John Pauly

John’s research is in designing and building Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, that take beautiful pictures of the insides of people. 

For fun he is into just about anything to do with radio and RF.  He is particularly interested in finding and decoding all of the various radio signals you generate in the course of your daily life.

Steven Clark

Lecturer, Electrical Engineering

Steve Clark with pet dog.

Steve started building (and breaking) stuff at an early age. Growing up in Minnesota, he had lots of time to tinker indoors. Then things got worse! Steve has built lasers, cell sorters, optical disk drives, gravity wave detectors, DNA sequencers, various microscopes, wireless data acquisition gizmos that form their own network, and a bunch of other things he would rather forget.

Dinosaurs still roamed the earth when Steve received a Ph.D. from Caltech. He spends his leisure time walking trails and listening to all types of music, especially jazz.