The Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program (GEL Program) recently revamped and relaunched 16.810 (Engineering Design and Rapid Prototyping), an existing Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics course last taught in 2012 that has been updated to focus on a new multi-disciplinary project focusing on fundamental engineering design skills. D-PRO is one of five elective course offerings that students in the GEL 1 program can choose from in order to fulfill the design and innovation leadership requirement. The course aims for students to develop a holistic view of the design process in an engineering industry context by conceiving, designing, prototyping and testing a multidisciplinary component or system. D-PRO integrates classroom learning with hands-on exploration, challenging small teams of students to design and develop solutions for a modified “real world” application.
Professor Olivier “Oli” de Weck, professor of astronautics and engineering systems of the Apollo program and co-director of the faculty of the GEL program, who co-leaded the course, says “Designing and building new products and systems. Work in diverse teams. quantitative requirements. Competition for contracts and market share. These are all things we simulate for two intense weeks in 16.810 D-PRO.
As part of the course, students participated in a team design competition that provided a competitive solution (across cost and performance metrics) for a next-generation air quality system for cabins. vehicles. The main objective of the competition was to rethink the comfort and health of the vehicle interior for the transition of a car manufacturer to a range of fully electric vehicles. Teams of students were tasked with reducing the likelihood of contracting a virus disease in the cabin (compared to today’s typical cabins), while achieving equal/better air conditioning system performance and minimizing consumption electric power – for an electric vehicle where everything runs off the battery, there is no power to spare. The teams were also tasked with meeting 16 design requirements, and then the automaker scored the teams on both “cost” and “performance”. The teams then competed to win a supplier contract with the automaker.
Kiely Smiga-McManus, current senior of GEL 1 and Course 2, says: “I enjoyed that the industrial-like structure of the class gave me insight into the engineering profession and illustrated all that goes into developing new technologies.” Regarding the hands-on fabrication component of the course, Smiga-McManus comments, “I particularly enjoyed experimenting with the CNC wire cutter, which allowed my team to produce a high-quality system with complex geometry and clean edges.”
Throughout the two weeks, teams worked daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to create and improve their first iteration prototypes and were challenged to further optimize their systems in a version 2 design. each team of students chose to implement a different system architecture and design, despite having the same requirements, instructions, and materials initially available. The system costs of the different teams also varied by plus or minus 25%.
Course co-instructor Jim Magarian, GEL Program Senior Lecturer and Associate Academic Director, says, “It’s great to be able to offer a variety of ways for students to meet the demand for design and development leadership. innovation of the GEL program. D-PRO demonstrates that a substantial learning experience in engineering design can be achieved in a condensed IAP [Independent Activities Period] course form. I am proud of this year’s D-PRO students for pushing the boundaries of their projects, illustrating how design optimization can be achieved through extensive analysis, testing and iteration in a relatively short period of time – if done methodically. Rebecca McCabe, an alumnus of MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Course 2 and now a PhD student at Cornell University, has served as a teaching assistant and received high marks from students.
Invited talks were given on computational fluid dynamics by Professor Adrían Lozano-Duran and by Faurecia, a France-based automotive supplier that develops cutting-edge vehicle interiors.
This class was originally developed with a grant from the Alumni-sponsored Teaching and Education Improvement Program (Class of ’51 Fund for Educational Excellence; Class of ’55 Fund for Teaching Excellence; Class of ’72 Fund for Educational Innovation).