We who write these materials and teach classes that use them, have found ourselves assigned to a variety of classrooms. The best is a shop with a concrete floor, ventilated work areas, good lighting, and electrical outlets at every student seat. A good second choice is a room intended for lab science such as biology or chemistry.

Alas, since Computer Science and Engineering is a computer programming class that happens to have a lot of hands-on dry lab work it is frequently assigned a traditional room that might otherwise be used for history or mathematics. We have found that with a little care such an assignment can serve well. Here is a diagram of one such classroom currently being used for CSE:




This classroom has three types of storage - student projects, tools and expendables, and raw parts. Parts bins with catalog labels

Raw Parts - these are the components purchased either from our website or the vendors listed in the Parts Catalog. An easy way for Parts for students to find what they are looking for is to organize these parts by their catalog numbers. Each item listed in a lesson's materials list also has this number.

Tools and expendables - these are hand tools that may be used during work but are to be replaced. We provide one tool set for every four students.

    • Light-weight long-nosed pliers - useful for inserting leads into solderless breadboards. Also handy for holding hex nuts when assemblying robots.
    • Light-weight wire cutters - appropriate for cutting solid copper wire in the gage range of 20 through 24
    • Wire stripper with marked settings for gages 20, 22, and 24 wire
    • Phillips-head screwdriver - correct size for working with #4-40 and #2-56 screws. Better yet is a reversible screw driver with a flat blade at the other end
    • Flat blade screwdriver - about 1/4 inch
    • Digital multimeter - for measuring voltage and resistance; and for testing diodes and continuity

Project storage - we have students place their work in progress, spare parts, Arduino, cable, and other project-related items in plastic shoe boxes. The boxes are labeled with the student's name and placed in a locked cabinet. The reason for locking a cabinet is sometimes students in other classes may be tempted to borrow components.

In addition, the tools storage will have other necessary items such as sand paper, glue, duct tape, masking tape, filiment for the 3D printer, batteries, solder, and velcro.


Students will be soldering, and most likely with leaded solder. Tools needed for each station are:

  • Soldering iron - 25 to 50 watt with a pointed tip. We've had good experience with the Atten SA-50
  • Brass sponge - for keeping the soldering iron tip clean and shiny
  • Soldering iron stand - coil-type that prevents accidental burns
  • De-soldering pump (also called a solder sucker)
  • Solder pick - a sharp, pointed tool
  • Fume extractor - a fan that forces the soldering fumes through a charcoal filter

Soldering iron


The 3D printer and the laser cutter are not essential tools but they come in handy for independent projects. The laser cutter makes extensions to the robot bodies and enclosures for electronic devices. The 3D printer makes everything from tracks for RC tanks to motor mounts for quad copters.