This article describes a new way of structuring a course on atomic scale materials engineering. Each weekly 90-minute session is divided in six 15-minute blocks in the following order: 1) peer instruction on homework, 2) student presentation of homework exercises, 3) demonstration of equipment by instructor, 4) student presentation of a recent article, 5) explanation by instructor of new homework, and 6) news of the week. The students learn about techniques for thin film materials characterization, become acquainted with various applications of these techniques, and are able to situate them in the context of modern developments in materials science. In addition, a variety of presentation skills are addressed. Student evaluation of this new setup has been very positive. Although the number of students in the course was small (about 10 students), this course structure is suitable for larger groups and for other materials engineering courses as well.