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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, October 23, 2014

Chris Gerdes and his student, Nitin Kapania, have received the best paper award from the 12th International Symposium on Advanced Vehicle Control, which occurred in Tokyo this Fall.    The paper is entitled “An Autonomous Lanekeeping System for Vehicle Path Tracking and Stability at the Limits of Handling.”  This is among a series of fine papers emerging from Chris’ group on applications that are at the forefront of vehicle design. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - 19:00 to 21:00
Bldg 550 Atrium, 416 Escondido Mall


Robin Petravic MFA ’97 discusses the process by which he transformed HEATH Ceramics from a dilapidated factory to an industry juggernaut in California-made, artisan-created products of enduring beauty and purpose that enhance people’s lives

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 19:00 to 21:00
Bldg 550 Atrium, 416 Escondido Mall


Matthew Lenoci MS '93 shares the story of MATTEO, the sewn textiles manufacturing company he founded in 1996 to help re-awaken the spirit of "Made in America" and build community in East Los Angeles.
Friday, October 17, 2014 (All day)

Registration is free, but mandatory for each symposium attendee.  Please register here:

The second Stanford-Berkeley Robotics Symposium will take place on Friday, October 17, 2014. The venue will be McCaw Hall, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center (326 Galvez Street, Stanford). 

The Symposium will bring together roboticists from Stanford, Berkeley, and the Bay Area robotics industry, and will feature 
- presentations from Stanford and Berkeley faculty
- talks from bay area industry representatives
- keynote talks from Prof. Boyd (Stanford) and Prof. Jordan (Berkeley)
- student poster session

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 15:15 to 16:01
Peterson Laboratory (Building 550), Studio 1, Second Floor
The elegance and maneuverability of bats during flight is unparalleled in both the natural and the man-made world, and they serve as a source of inspiration for scientists trying to understand the evolution of flight and for engineers designing highly agile Micro Air Vehicles. We have been exploring this rich research area for several years with studies ranging from live animal flights to instrumented robotic wings.
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Monday, July 21, 2014 - 14:00 to 17:00
Y2E2, Room 101




"Early Career Outcomes of Engineering Graduates: Exploring Their Connection to the Undergraduate Experience"

Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering
(650) 327-3190
Friday, August 29, 2014 - 12:00 to 13:00
Huang Courtyard (Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center Courtyard, 475 Via Ortega) on Friday, August 29th, 2014
The 2014 Stanford Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI) Poster Session was held in the Huang Courtyard (Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center Courtyard, 475 Via Ortega) on Friday, August 29th, 2014, from noon to 1 p.m.  Every year the posters have been getting more awesome, and this year was no exception.  This year's event was larger than ever, as we hit the 85-student mark for the first time.


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