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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.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 19:00 to 20:00
The Atrium, Peterson Building 550

Free and open to the public.

Erica Estrada-Liou is a master at developing brilliant solutions that transform the lives of the least fortunate. In her one-hour Meet the Maker session, Estrada-Liou will give her inside view of how “design engineering” can tackle some seemingly intractable challenges in underserved communities.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's easy to look at a bird and deduce that it flies by flapping its wings, but understanding exactly how a bird generates lift has long eluded scientists.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - 08:30 to 10:00
Automotive Innovation Facility

You’re invited to a special breakfast lecture on Wednesday, January 7 with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Hackenberg, Board Member for Technical Development, Audi AG. Prof. Hackenberg will discuss Audi’s connectivity strategy in his talk titled “Car-to-World.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 17:15 to 18:15
Building 530, Room 127

Reception prior to the seminar
4:45 – 5:15 p.m.
Building 530, Lobby

Autonomous micro aerial robots can operate in three-dimensional, indoor and outdoor environments, and have applications to search and rescue, first response and precision farming. Dr. Kumar will describe the challenges in developing small, agile robots and the algorithmic challenges in the areas of (a) control and planning, (b) state estimation and mapping, and (c) coordinating large teams of robots.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 19:00 to 20:00
The Atrium, Peterson Building 550

Free and open to the public.

Ken Martin (MS, Management Science and Engineering ’94, Biodesign fellow 2004-2005) shares his experiences applying the lessons of the Product Realization Lab to the care and feeding of startup medical device companies. 
Martin is currently the President and CEO of Cibiem, Inc., a medical device company pioneering a novel treatment for hypertension and heart failure.  Previously, he was the CEO of Sadra Medical, a percutaneous aortic valve company, which he successfully sold to Boston Scientific in 2011.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Caitlin Clancy gave her quadcopter one final inspection and backed away slowly. She had spent the past week designing and building the copter, mostly from scratch, and now, the moment of truth.

She pulled up the flight controls on her Android phone, and the rotors started whirring. Seconds later, the copter shot 30 yards across the atrium, flipped midair and flew into a balcony before crashing to the floor.

Clancy, a second-year master's student in mechanical engineering, took the disastrous flight in stride. In fact, she almost seemed happy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014 - 13:15 to 14:00
Bldg. 520 Room 145


Hands-on demonstrations of hapitcs projects from the Freshman IntroSem course ME 20N: Haptics: Engineering Touch.

Friday, November 21, 2014

If you spot someone stuck to the sheer glass side of a building on the Stanford campus, it's probably Elliot Hawkes testing his dissertation work.

Hawkes, a mechanical engineering graduate student, works with a team of engineers who are developing controllable, reusable adhesive materials that, like the gecko toes that inspire the work, can form a strong bond with smooth surfaces but also release with minimal effort.

Thursday, December 11, 2014 - 13:00 to 15:00
The Atrium, Peterson Building 550

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! Come MEET THE MAKERS!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sheri Sheppard, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, today was named U.S. Professor of the Year for doctoral and research universities.

The U.S. Professor of the Year awards are sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and administered by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).


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