D-Lab Toolkit: Teaching Design, Build, Test


Design, Build, Test (DBT) is a prototyping course where students design a physical prototype to solve a problem identified by their client. As in feasibility studies, the client must be an external person or organization  i.e., not the instructor — who has proposed the project. At UC Davis D-Lab, teach DBT immediately after Feasibility Studies, so that if a feasibility studies team is evaluating a physical product and decides it's a good idea, another student team can design it in DBT. 

There is a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning in DBT. The class will need access to tools, workspace, and materials. An equally important requirement is that the instructor must cultivate an atmosphere where students feel comfortable learning, failing, and asking a lot of questions. Some students may have more experience building and using power tools than others, but everyone should feel equally valued and capable of succeeding.

The core philosophies are the same as Feasibility studies: we draw inspiration from the divergent and convergent thinking of the design process and combine it with the Four Lenses of Sustainability. The specific deliverables are outlined in the Design Workbook. 

Teaching Resources

D-Lab Design Workbook

Every step in the design process has a component of dialogue. Whether it's speaking with the client, running things by a mentor or instructor, deliberating with teammates, or presenting before a review panel, feedback moves the process along, and each step of the way, pieces of documentation emerge, which we compile into a design notebook. 
Each group should keep a design notebook including all rough work, deliverables, contact information, brochures, sketches, photographs, designs and so forth.  This will be collected at the end of the course. 

The "D-Lab Design Workbook" describes each deliverable with guiding questions to keep students on track as they design and build their prototype. 

Evaluative Table

This PDF document is a presentation instructors can use to teach the Evaluative Table, a tool that encourages students to think through the design criteria that are most important to their client. As they fill out the table, students must ask themselves what success means for their project, and how they will measure it.

A sample evaluative table