Linking design, analysis, manufacture and test in the engineering student experience
The modern engineer needs to have diverse skills ranging from abilities in re-design, co-design, customisation, management of resources and intellectual property, combined with technical expertise.
Design education needs to prepare individuals for these requirements and manage the expectations of the students concerned. A particular challenge is the disconnect between empowered design practice, where the practitioner already has the necessary skills to explore the task, and the novice who is still learning technical and design skills. In order to develop understanding of design processes commonly experienced in industry a combination of projects using fuzzy or constrained briefs are introduced in the first and second years on the MEng in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College. Constrained briefs defining the limits for the design activity, are sometimes criticised as limiting the creative opportunities for the people involved. Some creative techniques however focus on identifying the constraints and conflicts involved with a view to resolving them. This paper explores a constrained brief project, used for the second year, where students are required to design, manufacture and then test their design for a pump. The project encourages use and exploration of analytical skills, engineering science and form development as well as basic manufacturing skills. Students can use CNC manufacture for their impeller and volute but are required to manually machine the majority of their bearing housing and shaft arrangement. The combination of concept development within constraints, use of analysis and engineering science, development of manufacturing and assembly skills and the student experience derived from testing their designs, are described within this paper.