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Research Theme - Design


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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.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 13:30 to 14:50
Bruan Lecture Hall (in the Mudd Chemistry Building, next door to the Braun Auditorium)

open to the public

Cynthia Sung
Ph.D. Candidate

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016 - 13:30 to 14:50
Braun Lecture Hall (inside the Mudd Chemistry Building)

open to the public (free)


Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 13:30 to 14:50
Braun Lecture Hall (inside the Mudd Chemistry Building)

Open to the public

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sami Haddadin
Director, Institute of Automatic Control
Leibniz Universität Hannover

Title: Robots for Humans: From Asimov to Reality

Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 10:30 to 11:50
Bldg. 520, Room 145 (d’Arbeloff Teaching Lab)

Open to the public

Please join us on 12/3/2015 from 10:30-11:50 am in Bldg. 520, Room 145 (d’Arbeloff Teaching Lab) for hands-on demonstrations of haptics projects from the course ME327: Design and Analysis for Haptic Systems.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 09:30 to 11:00
The Atrium, Peterson Building 550

Free and open to the public.

Come meet 100+ BRILLIANT students who are creating the future! Their creations include health devices, sports equipment, furniture, consumer and electric goods, and MORE!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 (All day) to Friday, December 11, 2015 (All day)

For three days, Stanford opens its design labs and classrooms to inspire executives, business leaders and decision makers with proven techniques that will transform their organizations. Senior faculty lead you through hands-on workshops where you learn the problem-solving tools and problem-finding frameworks that lead to innovation and strategic leadership, pioneered by the Design Group and the at Stanford.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 15:00 to 16:00
Center for Design Research (CDR), Bldg 560, Second Floor

Free and open to the public.

Professor Jörg Becker

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dr. h.c. Jörg Becker is a Head of the Department of Information Systems, European Research Center for Information Systems (ERCIS) Academic Director.

Since 2008 Prof. Becker is a Pro-Rector (Vice President) for strategic planning and quality assurance at the University of Münster. He is also Advisory Panel member of the Platform "Digital Administration and Public IT" of the National German IT Summit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 08:00 to 09:00
Bldg 210-Rm 131

Admission is free.

Advisor:  Prof. Mark R. Cutkosky

Refreshments at 7:45 AM

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 18:00 to 19:00
Automotive Innovation Facility, 473 Oak Rd. Stanford, CA

Open Garage Talk 
Going Sideways to Move Forward
Introducing Stanford’s latest automated vehicle
Moderated by Mythbusters’
Jamie Hyneman
Automotive Innovation Facility
473 Oak Road
Stanford, CA 94305
Registration is required; seating is limited.
The event is free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 19:00 to 20:00
Peterson Building 550, 416 Escondido Mall, Stanford University

Free and open to the public

32 million disaster victims are made homeless each year. REACTION is making portable, stackable, connectable, transportable, recyclable temporary homes for them. And they’ve raised $11M+ in seed and venture funds to do it.  Hear their off-the-record account of how REACTION is transforming disaster shelter response.
Speakers: Michael McDaniel, the CEO and Founder of REACTION, was formerly with Frog Design. Mariel Lanas, BS ’13 (Product Design) MS ’15 (Mechanical Engineering, is the Design Engineer at REACTION ans was formerly at Apple and Driptech. 


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