CubeSats are a class of nanosatellites that conform to a standardized 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, 1 kg form factor.
This miniaturization, along with a standardized deployment device for launch vehicles, allows CubeSats to be
launched at low cost by sharing the trip to orbit with other spacecraft. Part of the original motivation for the
CubeSat platform was also to allow university students to participate more easily in space technology development
and to gain hands-on experience with flight hardware. The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics along
with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Studies (EAPS) at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) recently completed a three semester-long course that uses the development of a CubeSat-based
science mission as its core teaching method. Serving as the capstone academic experience for undergraduates,
the goal of this class is to design and build a CubeSat spacecraft that serves a relevant science function, such
as the detection of exoplanets transiting nearby stars. This project-based approach gives students essential
first hand insights into the challenges of balancing science requirements and engineering design. Students are
organized into subsystem-specific teams that refine and negotiate requirements, explore the design trade space,
perform modeling and simulation, manage interfaces, test subsystems, and finally integrate prototypes and flight
hardware. In this work we outline the heritage of capstone design/build classes at MIT, describe the class format
in greater detail, and give results on the ability to meet learning objectives using this pedagogical approach.