Eng. Design Portfolio

Written by fionagan May 25th, 2012

The following is prepared for the final project of Praxis II, last updated May, 2012   I. Professional statement In my opinion, engineering design is a process that aims to […]

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The following is prepared for the final project of Praxis II, last updated May, 2012

 

I. Professional statement

In my opinion, engineering design is a process that aims to solve a problem in society by first understanding the problem and reframing it accordingly to direct the designer into sourcing scientific references to produce an improved device or system that serve the desired function through repetitive testing and idea-generation and selection with social, economic and environmental factors taken into consideration. Thus this definition shapes my design philosophy to be finding a solution that solves both the “letter” and “spirit” of the problem. 6 artifacts are presented to illustrate and support each step in my personal engineering design process that I have developed through high school and first year university, with annotations right beneath each hyperlink.

 

Through the creation of this portfolio, I have found my strength and weakness as an engineer and designer. I work well in groups for I am able to contribute creative ideas, research and honest opinions to propel the team forward. On the same note, I should set aside more time for independent idea generation and research for I have created and benefited from a personalized ideation method and I would mature much more as an independent thinker.

 

In the future, I plan to keep an engineering sketchbook to record my ideas and utilize more sources to search for justifications for my designs. It would also provide documented evidence for my design process, so that I can keep refining the process and see myself maturing through practice.

 

II.   my engineering design philosophy

When designing a product or a system, my first instinct is that it cannot be a duplicate of a current design that performs the same function(s). Then the design must solve the proposed problem correctly in practice but also in spirit. There may exist alternatives to the my design, however, as illustrated in ESC102 Lecture 17, I agree with the notion that “solving the right problem” is the first step, but to “solve the problem right” includes understanding the reasons why the problem is imposed or what the stakeholders really wished to have the solution do while practicing good engineering ethics. Thus my final design should be the one that is a complete solution to the problem satisfying my reframed criteria and constraints which are set after taking all the involved stakeholders and community into account, while producing the least risk or overall cost and greatest gain in the long-run.

 

In my opinion, the interaction with professionals in related fields and the direct community is crucial in the development of a design. They provide feedback and point out flaws, weaknesses and possible improvements to the design. In addition, I always try to incorporate design elements that do not only satisfy the intended design criteria but serve multiple functions with no or minimal marginal cost. The additional function of such a feature could be an improvement of the aesthetics, modularity, and ease of production or implementation of the design, thus making the overall design more desirable over others. My proposed design for the leaf structure and advertisement panel on the semi-vertical bike rack clearly demonstrate this point.

 

III. personal enacted engineering design process

After consulting two reference engineering design processes, a general pattern is found to be:

1. Define the problem

2. Gather pertinent information

3. Generate multiple solutions

4. Analyze and select a solution

5. Test and implement the solution

 

These five steps do somewhat mirror the design process that I have developed, but there are additional steps and my interpretations for each slightly differ from the references’.

 

1.   Define and understand the problem

When a problem is assigned, I prefer to skim through the proposal, pay closer attention to headings, diagrams and pictures to grasp a central idea of what the clients are asking, write down the immediate questions or reactions I have, such as have I encountered this type of problems before or any clarifications that I need to or they should have stated in order to understand the problem. With those in mind, I take pens and highlighters and read the proposal again to make notes of any ambiguities, criteria, constraints and parts that address my questions. Then I break down the problem by making lists of my interpretations of what prompted the proposal (need of solution), what I have to present (deliverables), what do I have to achieve (objectives), what I must follow (constraints), what I should consider (criteria), who I should contact to obtain clarification and guidance (stakeholders), and a finally a timeline for the solution-seeking process.

 

Supporting evidence:

[Document] My ideation on the Engineering Design Portfolio assignment

Annotation for artifact: This is an example of exactly how I start tackling each project. As I mentioned in step 1, I create a list for each heading with my own interpretations of the requirements, which are more elaborative, personal, organized and help me to define the problem better. I have been utilizing this method since high school and found it very helpful especially the way the headings and bullet points are organized, thus I believe this showcases my good design ability in utilizing tools to start a project on the right track.

 

2.   Critique & Reframe The Problem and Prioritize Design Criteria

After I have evaluated both the letter and spirit of the problem, I am ready to begin to design a solution with a clear and unambiguous definition of the problem, along with a basic idea of how I am going to approach problem. However, often times there are flaws, missing information, conflicting constraints or issues on the practicality of implementing a suitable solution at the specified time or geographic area. Thus, I must take a step back; communicate with the stakeholders, community and professional to gather insight on the history, current state and future outlook of the problem. Then I take these extra factors into consideration and prioritize the design criteria I have on the list. From ESC101 lecture, “Framing is the process by which people consciously or unconsciously impose an assumed structure on a situation by selecting relevant features: what is important and what is less important.” Since my ultimate goal is to solve both the letter and spirit of the problem, I have to choose what is reasonable for me to focus on in a limited time and sacrifice parts where I cannot control or obtain full information.

 

Supporting evidence:

[Poster] Rack: ranked aesthetics before security due to the nature of the location

On the top of the poster, the designs for X are listed in order, for which aesthetics is before security while the RFP ranked aesthetics lower than security. This shows that my group and I have taken the uniqueness of the location and the level of complexity in decreasing bike-theft rates into consideration, and have critiqued and reframed the problem to be better suited for us to come up with an acceptable solution. From this activity, I have gained a better understanding of reframing and scoping, as to I can reframe a question as long as I can back it up with credible research and reason to focus or disregard a criteria or design factor.

 

3.   Brainstorm & Explore Possibilities

As I am fully knowledgeable of the problem and confident in the need of a solution, I bring out my creativity along with common sense and professional experience to first sketch out possible solutions. Then I generate relevant keywords and search them on the Internet. I pay attention to existing solutions or designs that serve similar functions while being aware that some criteria or nature of the community may be very different from an existing solution implemented elsewhere. I sketch out the reference designs that I found and use the “SCAMPER” method learned from lecture to create several suitable designs.

 

Supporting evidence:

[Sketch] Praxis II Studio worksheet (group idea generation activity)

These series of sketches by my teammates and I reflect on the results of us brainstorming ideas while substituting, adapting, combining and modifying each other’s designs. Our final design is actually very similar to one of the designs here (by me) that we voted to be the top 3 designs, thus this brainstorming process is very important in searching for a solution. I believe I have applied the “SCAMPER” method well and are able to broaden my design space and think creatively in a short amount of time.

 

4.   Question & Research

Often there are legal constraints that hinder the implementation of great theoretical designs. It is a must for me, as the engineer responsible for the design, to check the compatibility of the new designs to any relevant guidelines, codes and standards, making sure that they do not violate any constraints imposed by officials or recommended by professionals. The restrictions imposed by the nature of geographic area (if applicable) or environment of which these solutions are going to be implemented should also be considered.

 

Supporting evidence:

[Research] Vibrant city  (pg 40) – constraint on advertisement on street furniture

This guideline published by the City of Toronto restricts me to design an advertisement panel on each bicycle rack that our group designed. This example illustrates that a perfectly intuitive design (generate revenue by advertisement) can be hindered by regulation and thus one must check before implementing the solutions in order to avoid undesired consequences. My ability to think creatively, but also critically about good theoretical designs is definitely needed for future projects.

 

5.   Select design based on ranked criteria

I then discuss with teammates (if applicable) and assign weights to each criteria (or DfX, design for X), and place each evaluating criteria and designs into a Pugh matrix. Finally compare each solution and see which design has the great overall performance. However, as emphasized in lectures, sometimes there isn’t a clear winner, and numbers do not mean everything. I then conduct more research, communicate with stakeholders and consult with teammates and professionals to decide on a suitable solution.

 

Supporting evidence:

[Tool] Pugh matrix for concept selection

This Pugh matrix shows how 3 designs are compared and how a selection is made. Without this tool and the selection process, my group and I would not have been able to move on to combining features of two top designs, creating and perfecting a final design. The ability in determining the importance of each criteria and confident in assigning scores to each design is also desirable.

 

6.   Test & Improve design

In my opinion, one of the best ways to understand how the solution works is to build a model or a prototype to test its functionality. After performing multiple tests, it will be clear how the solution works, as predicted or unexpected flaws have hindered it to operate differently. Sometimes new ideas would generate from testing and I adapt these to fix and improve my designs. To backtrack on my progress, with these new modifications in mind, I go back to step one and keep iterate through this process while keep refining my design until it meets my requirements, and both the letter and spirit of the problem.

 

Supporting evidence:

[Proto-type] UTEK Recycling sorter

This project is a great example for repetitive testing and improving of a proto-type and solution (at least 2 out of 5 hours were spent on testing and fixing proto-type). For my team and I have succeeded, this illustrates the importance of carrying out a theoretical design to real life by building a proto-type and think about all possible test cases to perform on the proto-type, making it more versatile. Having good patience and being able to work under limited time and high-pressure show great design abilities.

 

V.   references

Reference design process #1:

“Engineering Design Process” by Seyyed Khandani, Ph.D.

http://www.iisme.org/etp/HS%20Engineering-%20Engineering.pdf

 

Reference design process #2:

“NASA Engineering Design Challenge”

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/plantgrowth/reference/Eng_Design_5-12.html

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