"Design Process Steps" include:

  • Development of a concise problem statement  to isolate the task at hand in the simplest, most direct manner. Student creation of a sponsor-approved Deliverables Document is intended to ensure that sponsor wishes are understood and accounted for during project execution. This deliverables document is often called the "Level 1 Requirements" list: It should clarify expectations of the sponsor, and obligations of the group, in easily understood language. This requirements list sets the stage for investigations of background material and for creation of the actual design specifications for your project.
  • Investigating, in-depth, available background information including any technologies that may lead to design solutions. Falling under this category are past solutions, tried and true methods, emerging technologies, design elements and components from other applications or fields. Groups should delve into material properties and costs, sources of supplies and data, and any unique analyses or design procedures that might impact their design. Any regulatory or legal issues must be investigated, as well as heath & safety, ergonomics, environmental impacts, life-cycle analysis, etc. This is the most time consuming step, perhaps impossible to ever fully complete - but yet it is the most important task undertaken by the design group or arguably by any researchers. They must become experts in topics that apply to their project.
  • Generating concise and accurate design specifications to define requirements and to guide the evaluation of alternative solutions. These specifications are 'before the fact' targets or goals, not performance specs like those associated with a commercial product.
  • Development of reasonable alternative solutions to the problem. Often the project must be broken into many steps, each having multiple alternatives: This step requires imagination, creativity, and freedom from certain excessive outside influences  to succeed. (e.g. dictatorial faculty supervisors or meddling sponsors tend to limit discussions of creative solutions!) Free-wheeling brainstorming sessions can be very productive in this step - and fun!
  • Evaluation of alternatives: Some proposed combinations of solution steps may be workable, some unreasonable, some may be absurd, but hopefully several will emerge as viable alternative solution methods. A reasonable scheme to evaluate and select the alternatives that are the most likely to succeed - prior to fully developing and analyzing each possibility - is required in order to streamline the process. There is rarely time  in academia or industry to complete multiple designs first and then choose the best; that would be far too resource-intensive. This evaluation step points the group in the "best" direction early, to the exclusion of other less viable alternatives. If subsequent analysis and testing reveals problems, other alternatives may rise to the top.
  • Detailing & Documenting the (best!) solution. Required elements include a thorough and concise written description, accurate figures/images/sketches/tables, full analytical treatment, references and bibliography, precise and correct component drawings of all elements designed by the group, accurate and properly formatted assembly drawings, and detailed cost information and performance info on purchased components & raw materials, etc. Once again, see the course website for requirements.
  • Prototype Fabrication and Testing. This is a major focus of both the ME and the MET programs, and is an absolute requirement: Fabrication of high resolution prototypes and the subsequent testing and characterization of the result are critical. Most of this activity occurs during the second semester of the capstone sequence.