Engineering Process and Strategies

design process

All these steps in the engineering design process are kept in record until the design process is complete. There are other steps that are taken into consideration during the design process which involves clarification of the task and identify which solutions are not possible. During the process of choosing a potential solution, it is a back and forth process of upgrading the solution by running them against the requirements and re-evaluating them. Even after a definitive solution has been picked it still needs to be constantly revamped by validating it against the stakeholder’s interests. There exists a possibility of the design being rejected by the stakeholder which is not explicitly mentioned in the design process above.

The model is portrayed as a step by step process with 9 unique steps. However, steps 3-8 can be carried out numerous times depending on the stakeholder’s interests and the ability of the engineer/engineering team to come up with a practical solution. The first column deals with the process of framing the opportunity and “diverging” in order to know the community better. Moving on, as further information is obtained the cycle includes the process of “converging “, so that solutions can be narrowed down. The cycle also includes the process of prototyping where a workable design solution is created to present to the stakeholders so that they can validate it. Depending on the response the prototype/solution should constantly be remodeled and verified by running against the requirements to ensure a perfect design solution.

As a engineer I do my utmost best to follow this design process wherever and whenever necessary to make a decision. This process serves as a reminder for me to stay true to my values of being an engineer by making my design decisions in a logical and rational way instead of abruptly changing my process with each design decision.

Frame pic
Praxis Model of Engineering design process[1]

Framing

Every design decision begins with some sort of framing of the problem at hand. It is necessary to know/identify the tasks and objectives at hand, as well the stakeholder/s involved. After this observation it is necessary to notice if the problem/opportunity identified is within a reasonable scope of being solved and one can research further to understand this in detail. This leads to the creation of a requirements model which is includes components such as objectives, metrics, criteria and constraints required.

There is constant framing done up till the end of the project. The stakeholder/s should be constantly updated of the design and any design decision made should be verified and validated with them. I personally like to have as much stakeholder contact as possible as it ensures that the project is heading in the right direction. One does not want to build an expensive, workable solution only to find out that the stakeholder does not prefer to have a solution made out of a certain set of materials. This would avoid great amounts of reframing later on. 

18013021_10209276372894358_2060595196_o
Process of our group that described the routine at G&S Dye

Diverging

When it comes to generating a bunch of different ideas for an opportunity, diverging is often needed as it opens up doors to many different possibilities.

The diverging process adopted by my group and I always involves us getting together and brainstorming ideas individually. No matter how unreasonable an idea might be, we write it down. The purpose is to come up with ideas that might have one unique feature that maybe useful for the final solution. Then once we all have our individual ideas we come together and discuss as to which ones we should keep and which ones to discard. I use a number of different techniques to diverge during projects, one of them is the “Six Thinking Hats System”. In this technique I try to think to view the problem from different perspectives depending on which ‘hat’ I am wearing. This method helps to look at the problem from all angles, helps to come up with diverse thoughts and greatly reduces the possibility of missing out an important detail for the opportunity.

Thinking Hats
“The six thinking Hat system” [3]
18009466_10209276374054387_673648067_n
Divergence Example for our RFP (Request for Proposal)

 

When my team is together we tend to use the “SCAMPER” technique to figure out which solution idea actually makes sense and how we can connect one solution idea with another. “SCAMPER” stands for (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Rearrange). Our group employs all seven of these techniques equally but for our final showcase project we used the “Reverse” component of SCAMPER quite a bit.

Visionary Design

It is also necessary that before most of the individual and group divergence takes place, the group has a basic understanding of the concept of the design. This is achieved usually in team meetings after school where each member of the group just jots down ideas on post-it-notes and makes drawings/sketches as necessary. As the group is following a requirements model that is laid out, it is better to have all the ideas kept within a certain boundary to prevent diverting from the original purpose. Teammates might disagree with certain aspects here but since it’s the initial stages there is a lot of room for discussion and improvement. For example, in Praxis II, my team and I re-scoped the opportunity down to just the storage and efficient rolling and unrolling of the fabrics.

After Diverging we look at a few Converging techniques

Converging

Converging is necessary to be able to pinpoint the best idea/solution relative to others. There are many ways to converge for a solution.

The Eliminate component of SCAMPER can be used very efficiently to converge. If our group finds that any one of the designs does not meet the requirements model for our opportunity, that design is scratched off the list. This was a technique employed greatly by our group that resulted in us reducing our design options from 30+ to just under 5. My group and I felt that we would be acting irresponsibly and would not have personal satisfaction if we chose to add a solution that does not meet our requirements model.

Pugh Chart

The Pugh Chart is a very helpful tool when it comes to converging. This tool is useful in choosing for designs against the criteria in the requirements model.  This way one can narrow down their options to a few designs which meet the criteria fully. The metrics are set against each design and a “+”, “-” or “0” is giving each design with respect to the criteria, with a “+” meaning it meets the criteria and a “-” meaning it does not.

Pigh Chart.PNG

 

Embodiment of the Design

Representing

During this phase,  one uses sketches and models to represent ones ideas as it allows to learn more by actually seeing what the design looks like. Using a prototype is extremely helpful as it pinpoints the advantages and disadvantages of the design. It allows one to communicate their design with others. A prototype is also very detailed and it can be used to testing and demonstration purposes. If the design is very challenging building a low-fidelity prototype helps to portray the idea.

Testing

Creating justified test protocols using the requirements model and then actually testing one’s designs against the criteria and metrics is extremely important. It serves to show whether or not the design is workable or not. Before testing everything is all theoretical and one cannot say with certainty if a design works but if the design passes testing then the design does indeed work. In order to play it safe it is better to test the components of the design as they come along instead of building the entire prototype and then testing it all at once because if there is one flaw in the entire prototype then that effects the entire prototype. However, if that component of the prototype was tested earlier and the flaw found, then that would save time because only one component needs to be replaced.

Validation

The design should always be validated with stakeholders. This is the best way to make sure that if one is on the right track and to prevent any problems in the future. Since it is difficult to always explain a design concept to a stakeholder having a prototype ready to show and represent to the stakeholders is always better as “seeing is believing” and the stakeholder may give valuable feedback on the design.

Final evaluation

Finally after all designs are tested and validated, they should be compared, tested against each other and eliminated until one definitive design is selected. It might be necessary to go through the entire design process again if needed but eventually only one solution stands out amongst all others.

Reflection

My engineering model initiated as a model that just included Framing, Diverging and Converging throughout Praxis I, however this process took shape and evolved over time and I was able to make more calculated and fluid decisions when necessary. Praxis II mostly influenced this process and using my design process over and over in Praxis II made me understand how easier it is when one works with a set design process.

The process right now helps me showcase my strengths which include testing, prototyping etc., to their maximum with much more confidence and emphasis. Applying this to teamwork, I saw that this process helped me contribute more to my team and my team and I were able to maintain a central identity and value.

In the future, I believe that it is extremely important to see how one has matured. One should evaluate themselves at all stages and compare where they are now with their former selves. They should observe the areas that improved and the ones that still needed further improvement. It is a learning curve and the ones who succeed are the ones who pay attention to their mistakes and try their best to grow as a student engineer by making a difference among the people around them.

Reference List

  1. J. Foster. “Lecture 8 Actual”, Slide 39. ESC101. Sep. 2016.
  2. Gulab Abdullah, “Praxis II Field Notes: Improving the Process of Ordering Fabrics at G&S Dye”. Rep. Jan. 2017.
  3. “Strategies and tools for divergent thinking”, Instructional Design Fusions, 2017. [Online]. Available: https://instructionaldesignfusions.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/strategies-and-tools-for-divergent-thinking/. [Accessed: 17- Apr- 2017].