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Research Theme - Design

Design is Pervasive in Mechanical Engineering

Virtually all faculty members in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford are involved in some form of design activity.

Some actively design and manufacture devices or products; others study the design process including team design and team learning, a traditional strength in our design curriculum. In addition, we develop tools to facilitate the creation of engineering products at a variety of scales and complexity. We interpret the word "design" widely, reflecting the broad value systems we cultivate in the Department. We also believe that a better understanding of societal needs, aided by association with social sciences, will further assure the relevance of the fields we choose to work in. 

Where Can You Work on Design?

The department's Design Group, which contributes many faculty to the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, provides the nexus for the creation and understanding of successful design processes. Numerous faculty in the Mechanics and Computation Group and the Flow Physics and Computation Group are developing the next generation of simulation capabilities for mechanical, fluidic and biological systems. In the Thermosciences Group, there is much research on the design of thermal and energy conversion systems ranging from thermoelectric and solar energy converters to clean coal. Finally, there is a long tradition of the simulation, characterization and design of biomedical structures in the Biomechanical Engineering Program.

Broadening the Requirements Envelope

In the past, Design Engineering's primary concern has been with "feasibility"—our traditional and technically oriented approach to problem solving. As we are asked to be more innovative in today's commercial/industrial environment, it becomes critical that we weigh in on "usability," "viability" and "desirability" as well. The usability of products is obviously becoming more valued and requires us to focus much more strongly on human values in addition to technical requirements. Understanding the viability of the products and services we are responsible for creating requires better understanding of business principles in order to focus on appropriate solutions that will ensure that our designs will make it out into the world. Desirability requires an empathy for the social context and meaning of products.

Human-Centered Design

The human-centered design approach requires us to collaborate with and understand more fully the approach of social scientists in the cognitive psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology fields. Our challenge and opportunity after developing expertise in the social sciences is to understand human values and needs to nearly the same extent that we understand technical and analytical issues. This allows us to design products, services and experiences that people truly value as individuals and as a culture. The change to a human-centered design methodology is quite profound; instead of inspiration coming primarily from new technical advancements that we are trying to exploit, we take the approach of studying and observing humans to understand their wants and latent needs. We are therefore able to design a more appropriately satisfying solution that makes a difference.
Thursday, January 26, 2017 -
17:00 to 19:30
Building 550, the Atrium

No RSVPs needed. Open event.

The Stanford Product Design (PD) Program is hosting a talk with two visiting PD alumni who currently work at General Motors (GM) in Detroit on THUR. 01/26 at Building 550 (Peterson), the Atrium.
Two graduates: Bryan Quintanilla (2014) and Alex Archer (2015) will be visiting and sharing some stories about how the skills they’ve learned through Stanford, the product design program, and the have helped them at in their roles at General Motors. They’ll also be talking a bit about what life is like at General Motors, in Detroit, and the surrounding areas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 -
18:00 to 19:00
Building 550, the Atrium

No RSVP needed. Open event. 

The Design Program is hosting Jazwings, a platform that allows students to upload their ideas for an opportunity to partner with a global toy and entertainment company to make them real.
Next week, on WED. 01/25 night from 6 to 7pm, they will be visiting our campus (right in Building 550, the Atrium) and be giving an info session on how Jazwings works.
Food and drinks will be provided. No RSVPs needed. Poster attached. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

There you are, cruising down the freeway, listening to some tunes and enjoying the view as your autonomous car zips and swerves through traffic. Then the fun ends and it becomes time take over the wheel. How smooth is that transition going to be?

Twenty-two drivers put that question to a test – on a track, not a freeway – to find out. The results, which were published in the first issue of Science Robotics on Dec. 6, could help in the design of future autonomous cars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The protective goggles are tight, the chin strap secure. Conditions are calm and the lasers are ready; the air is infused with tiny aerosol particles that are primed to scatter and track at the slightest disruption. Wait for the signal.

The researcher points. The bird flies!

It’s just another day at the office for a parrotlet named Obi.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 -
09:30 to 11:30
The Atrium, Building 550

Free and open to the public

More than 100 brilliant STUDENT MAKERS from the Product Realization Lab present their AMAZING fall quarter projects! Products include innovations in sports equipment, consumer goods, education and health devices, agricultural tools, and MORE!

Friday, November 11, 2016 -
09:30 to 12:00


The Design Impact Information Session is held annually for prospective students who want to apply to the graduate program, Design Impact.

Friday, December 9, 2016 -
20:00 to 23:00
DESIGN LOFT & COURTYARD, BUILDING 610, 524 Duena St., Stanford, CA 94305

Please come join us for "Personal Statements", presented by the Stanford Design Program's 2nd year graduate students, Class of 2017.

The "personal statement" is an open-ended project that each 2nd year graduate student in the Stanford Design Program produces during the last two weeks of the Autumn Quarter to uniquely introduce themselves to the design community.  Previous years' projects have included everything from a swirling vortex of water with flames shooting out from the center to a life-size replica of the Wright Brothers' first airplane.  Though the projects are unique every year, there will most definitely be demos and visually interesting displays.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 -
11:00 to 12:00
Building 520, Room 231

Open to the public.

Reasoning Towards the Future: Novel Approaches for Decision Making on Innovation

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 -
11:00 to 12:00
Building 520, Room 231

Open to the public.

Reasoning Towards the Future: Novel Approaches for Decision Making on Innovation


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