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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, April 14, 2015 - 19:00 to 20:00
The Atrium, Peterson Building 550

Free and open to the public

Mark Fuller (MS Product Design, Stanford University) is the co-founder and chief excellence officer at WET, where he and his team created the fountains of Bellagio, Dubai, Lincoln Center, Waters Park for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, and hundreds of others. Described as "a fountain genius" by The New Yorker, Fuller will discuss his work using water and energy to transform human connection with the elements, with each other, and with our inner selves. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

It has taken more than a million fine samples of aerodynamic force and airflow combined to determine what makes a hummingbird's wings so adept at hovering.

The team led by David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, believes that the results could have significant impacts in both aerodynamic research and in advancing bio-inspired designs of drones and other aircraft.

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 14:00 to 17:20
Atrium, Peterson Building

Free & Open to The Culture

Stanford's Mechanical Engineering Design Group invites you to join us as we celebrate our students' creative work in design research, design practice, engineering, and manufacturing.  ME310 Product-Based Engineering Design, Innovation, and Development graduate students will be sharing their current research on their project prototypes that will be showcased at Stanford Design EXPErience Fair on June 4, 2015 in the Atrium of the Peterson Building.  Please come and witness their groundbreaking ideas here at the Peterson's Atrium!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 17:30 to 19:30
Studio One, Peterson Building 550

Free and open to the public.

 Beautiful and precious objects, magnificently designed and realized by twenty-two Stanford students.

Monday, March 9, 2015 - 19:00 to 20:30
The Atrium, Peterson Building 550

Free and open to the public.

Student-engineered HOOP-BOTS shoot baskets with the efficiency of the Splash Brothers!Two-minute sudden-death elimination rounds! The BOT with the highest score wins! It’s WILD! It’s CRAZY! It’s STANFORD MECHATRONICS!

Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 16:15
Thornton Center Breezeway


This event will provide an opportunity for students and community members to get an up-close look at a variety of devices and learn about available services. Users of assistive technology products as well as small companies and agencies serving individuals with disabilities and older adults are encouraged to bring assistive technology devices to display, demonstrate, and discuss.






Friday, March 20, 2015 - 13:00 to 15:00
Atrium, Building 550

Free and open to the culture

Meet more than 100 brilliant STUDENT MAKERS from the Product Realization Lab and see their AMAZING winterquarter projects! Products include innovations in sports equipment, musical instruments, consumer goods, education and health devices, and MORE!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 12:00 to 13:00
Bldg 550, Room 200


** Special Robotics Seminar **

Bring your own lunch, we will provide dessert!
Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Northwestern University
Thursday, February 5, 2015

Progress by Chris Gerdes and his students on vehicle control at the limits of handling were featured in a very compelling way on CNN last week

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stanford educators have designed a do-it-yourself kit that gives online learners hands-on experience by bringing haptics into virtual classrooms.

Haptics refers to the sense of touch. The hands-on teaching tool is called Hapkit.

Hapkit has a sensor, motor and controller board that can be programmed using a personal computer. Learners can program Hapkit to produce specific sensations. For instance a user should be able to touch the device and feel what it’s like to run his or her hand against a wall or click a ballpoint pen.


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