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Design Group Offices and Labs

The Design Group offers a rich and diverse set of facilities in support of its academic and research efforts.

Faculty and administrative offices are in Building 550, also known as Peterson Laboratory.  To avoid disruption of our many activities, tours must be approved in advance by Design Group management.

The Alex Tung Memorial Assistive Technology Laboratory at Stanford (ATLAS) (Professor Drew Nelson, Director; David L. Jaffe, MS, Associate Director) houses the research of Drew Nelson and students plus the teaching of ME348 and ENGR110/210. It is in Building 550, Room 134

The Automotive Innovation Facility (AIF) houses the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL), a state-of-the-art vehicle research facility where interdisciplinary teams can work on projects that move vehicle technology forward. Stanford projects which reside at the AIF include vehicle dynamics and control at the limits of handling, motion planning for automated vehicles and driver assistance and augmentation systems research by the Dynamic Design Lab of Chris Gerdes; research on the interaction of drivers with vehicles in a driving simulator by the Human/Machine Interaction group in Larry Leifer's designX-lab; in-vehicle wellness interventions to promote a mindful commute by the Pervasive Wellbeing Technology Lab of Pablo Paredes and the Stanford Solar Car Project, which designs, builds and races the solar vehicle which competes in the World Solar Challenge in Australia. To improve safety, sustainability, performance and enjoyment of automobiles, the Automotive Innovation Facility provides a place for researchers to build and test new ideas in real vehicles.  The AIF provides project, fabrication, classroom and meeting spaces for students and researchers to prototype the cars of the future. AIF is located at the corner of Stock Farm and Oak Road.

The Bio-inspired Research and Design Lab (BIRD Lab) (Professor David Lentink, Director) integrates three areas of research in Mechanical Engineering: comparative Biomechanics, biological Fluids and robot Design. The lab's mission is to improve our understanding of how birds fly to develop better flying robots. Together, lab members bridge a diverse set of complementary disciplines (dynamics, controls, fluids, physiology, neuroscience and biomechanics) to advance both science and engineering, a process that traditionally required multiple labs. Multidisciplinary collaboration between students and postdocs in the lab is therefore central to the culture of the BIRD/Lentink Lab.

The Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Laboratory (Professor Mark Cutkosky, PI) is affiliated with the Center for Design Research. BDML research activities include modeling and control of dextrous manipulation with robotic and teleoperated hands; force and tactile feedback in telemanipulation and virtual environments; and design and control of compliant "biomimetic" robots with embedded sensors and actuators.

The Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) (Professor Chris Gerdes, Director; Stephen Zoepf, PhD, Executive Director) operates an interdisciplinary automotive research lab, the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL). By creating a community of faculty and students from a range of disciplines at Stanford with leading industry researchers and policymakers, CARS strives to radically re-envision the automobile for unprecedented levels of safety, performance and enjoyment. CARS' mission is to discover, build and deploy the critical ideas and innovations for the next generation of cars and drivers.

The Center for Design Research (Professor Larry Leifer, Director) is a community of scholars focused on understanding and augmenting engineering design innovation and education. We are dedicated to facilitating individual creativity, understanding interdisciplinary, multi-cultural, design team dynamics.  We strive to instrument the team's activity to predict breakthrough innovation performance and coach teams in real time.  We develop advanced tools and methods to promote superior design and delivery of products, services, and businesses.  We research the problem space before offering solutions through design thinking, concurrent engineering, systems engineering, global teams-of-teams.  We focus on design knowlege capture, indexing, and reuse.  Our instruments are deployed in academic and industry contexts.  Understanding human/machine (autonomous car) relationships is a hot topic of the times.  CDR's team-interaction-observatory is in Building 560.  Several research projects use VAIL.

The Collaborative Haptics and Robotics in Medicine Lab (CHARM Lab) (Professor Allison Okamura, PI) develops principles and tools needed to realize advanced robotic and human-machine systems capable of haptic (touch) interaction. Systems for teleoperation, virtual environments and robotic manipulation are designed and studied using analytical and experimental approaches. Application areas include surgery, simulation and training, rehabilitation, prosthetics, neuromechanics, exploration of hazardous and remote environments, design and education. The lab is in the Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory (MERL, Building 660), Room 126.

The Design Observatory (DO) (Professor Larry Leifer, PI) is a research environment for studying engineering design team activity through real-time observation, recording, analyzing, and coaching.  Activities include idea generation, prototyping and globally distributed design team meetings. Through observation, video and audio analysis, the researchers have discovered patterns of behavior that correlate with effective team performance. The DO environment is flexible enough to allow researchers to set up different design experiments quickly and easily. It also allows researchers to investigate various aspects of design behavior in a detailed manner (second by second). The end results of the research carried out in the DO are new metrics of effective design behaviors, new research instruments and new design practices that yield innovation eco-systems. The DO is in the Center for Design Research, Building 560.

The Designing Education Lab (DEL) (Professor Sheri Sheppard, PI) investigates a broad range of engineering education topics, from the persistence of students and alumni in engineering fields to the impact of exposure to entrepreneurship on engineering students' career interests. DEL researchers are engaged in national and international collaborations with colleagues within and outside of engineering. Our activities and projects emphasize the relationship of research to academic and professional practice by informing the redesign of engineering course pedagogy and curriculum and the dissemination of findings in conference papers, workshops, webinars, online resources and publications. The DEL is in the Center for Design Research, Building 560.

Chris Gerdes is director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) and directs his own laboratory, the Dynamic Design Lab (DDL). Research interests in the DDL include vehicle dynamics, design of x-by-wire systems, driver assistance systems and control of homogeneous charge compression ignition engines. A good example is the current development of autonomous racing and drifting algorithms to enable Shelley, an Audi TT-S, to race up Pikes Peak without a driver.

The designX Lab (Professor Larry Leifer, PI) is focused on graduate-level research in the larger subjects of design innovation, design methodology, and design education.  Our designX community is comprised of fulltime members who arrive from a diverse range of disciplines including sociology, product design, neuroscience, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, economics, business and architecture.  While our lab reflects a range of interests across multiple disciplines, we share an interest and commitment to better understanding Design Thinking: a research and design paradigm which is user-centered and is proving to yield superior outcomes in the face of contemporary problems. We are actively developing understandings of design as a research topic, as a research method, and as a philosophical approach.

The Innovation Acceleration Lab, part of the Center for Design Research, aims to develop feedback methods and technology to accelerate the effectiveness of engineering product innovation teams. Researchers at the Innovation Acceleration Lab use video interaction analysis and visual representations to measure, analyze and give process feedback to engineering product innovation teams.

Research projects in the IRIS Design Lab: Interdisicplinary Research in Sustainable Design (Assistant Professor Erin MacDonald, PI) have three foci: (1) Modeling the role of the public's decisions in effective large-scale sustainability implementation; (2) Improving engineering designers' abilities to address complex customer preference for sustainability; and (3) Using data on how consumers perceive products, especially visually, to understand how products are evaluated and subsequently improve those evaluations. These foci represent three corresponding design vantage points: (1) system-level; (2) human-scale or product-level, and (3) single-decision-level, as shown in the Figure. The exploration of these different vantage points is fundamental to performing insightful design research on complex design issues, such as sustainability.

The Loft (in Building 610) is a unique facility that represents the culture of innovation at Stanford. It is a space in which students of the Stanford Design Program (Professor David Kelley, Program Director) carry out graduate-level design work.

The ME310 Design Team Development Loft (Professor Larry Leifer, PI) provides space and technical support for globally distributed product development teams working on corporate partner projects. Teams are assigned a desktop design station with internet video studio support. The facility is in Building 550.

The Nanoscale Prototyping Laboratory (Professor Fritz Prinz, PI) focuses on the design and fabrication of micro and nanoscale devices for energy and biology. Examples include fuel cells and bioreactors. Interest is in mass-transport phenomena across thin membranes such as oxide films and lipid bi-layers. This research group studies electro-chemical phenomena with the help of atomic force microscopy, impedance spectroscopy and quantum Modeling. The lab is in Building 530.

Stanford's Product Realization Laboratory (Professor (Teaching) David Beach & Senior Lecturer Craig Milroy, Directors; Marlo Kohn, Associate Director) is a multi-site teaching facility with roots in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and deep synergies with the Stanford Design Program, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The Product Realizabion Lab is open to Stanford undergraduate, graduate and professional school students who aspire to design and create objects of lasting value. For a list of courses and to learn more, please visit the Product Realization Lab website.

SHAPE Lab (Assistant Professor Sean Follmer, PI) develops advanced technologies in robotics, mechatronics, and sensing to create interactive, dynamic physical 3D displays and haptic interfaces that allow 3D information to be touched as well as seen. We are specifically interested in using these novel interfaces to support richer remote collaboration, computer-aided design, education, and interfaces for people with visual impairments. In pursuit of these goals, we use a design process grounded in interative prototyping and human-centered design and look to create new understanding about human perception and interaction through controlled studies. Our research in Human Computer Interaction and Human Robot Interaction are currently directed in five areas: Dynamic Physical Shape Displays, Wearable Haptics for Grasping in VR, Ubiquitous Robotic Interfaces, Mobile Haptics and Soft Actuation and Sensing.

The Smart Product Design Laboratory (Adjunct Professor Ed Carryer, Director) supports microprocessor application projects related to ME218ABCD and is located in the Thornton Center.

The Stanford Biomechatronics Laboratory (Associate Professor Steve Collins, PI) develops wearable robots to improve human mobility.  We use a combination of theory, design, and experiment to improve stability and energy efficiency for individuals whose strength and coordination have been affected by amputation, stroke, or aging.  Our primary focus is to speed and systematize the design and prescription of prostheses and exoskeletons using versatile device emulator hardware and human-in-the-loop optimizer algorithms (Zhang et al. 2017, Science). Another focus is efficient autonomous devices, such as highly energy-efficient walking robots (Collins et al. 2005, Science) and exoskeletons that use no energy yet reduce the metabolic energy cost of human walking (Collins et al. 2015, Nature).  We believe that appropriate mechanical assistance can not only restore function, but can enhance performance beyond typical human limits.

The Stanford Micro-Structures and Sensors Laboratory (Professor Tom Kenny, PI) is the setting for efforts to develop and fabricate novel mechanical structures. Basic research on the non-classical phenomena exhibited by micro structures is emphasized as well.