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Week 2 Project Task assignment

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Project Ideas to Components


Engineering projects are commonly managed through a divide-and-conquer strategy, as shown here in an illustration from the textbook. The overall task, if complex at all, cannot easily be tackled by a single person, as it is both vague and simply too much work. The best approach is to divide it up and assign portions of the overall task to separate teams. This figure shows a slightly more complex process than you will pursue, with the system divided into subassemblies and then individual components, but the concept applies to systems with no subassembly level.

The next step in your term project is to divide the overall project ideas developed during Week 1 into a set of components amenable to individual analysis.

You may well ask at this point: How do we divide up the project if we have not yet selected a project? Answer: Dividing up the project ideas and clarifying the components will help with project selection!

Recall that design is an iterative process, with potential dead- ends and returns to previous levels. In this figure the labeled circles represent Concepts (C), Embodiments (E), and Details (D). You are at the Concept level, where some general notion of a market need has been translated into project ideas. Note that sometimes promising concepts are not advanced. Trace the figure from the eventual detailed design D6 back through the solid arrows along the convoluted path to C1, which itself represents a modification of C3 based on information gathered at the embodiment stage! That means C2, C4, C5, C6, and C7 were eliminated. Those decisions were made based on an evaluation of more detailed information.

Your project will not be this convoluted (hopefully!), but the point is that adding detail to concepts by taking them through to the embodiment stage adds information to the project, and informs decisions about how to proceed. In other words, further describing the components of the design ideas will help with the decision about which design to pursue.


Take your project idea (what you turned in for the Week 1 Project Task) and further explore the individual components. A good project will have a well-defined and sufficiently challenging component for each individual group member to pursue. The upcoming project selection will be a consensus choice by the group from among the available alternatives. Consensus is a process whereby everyone in the group agrees with a decision. After this stage, where each of you defines your idea more clearly, you will work together as a group to develop a single project. It may be one of the ideas taken directly, or it may be a composite of different ideas. Details may change, with refinement of design or component specifications. Here are further guidelines on completing this step:

What do you do if your project idea does not have enough components? Expand the idea.

What do you do if the components are not sufficiently challenging? Add design requirements.

What does well-defined and sufficiently challenging mean? Clear objectives for overall design and individual component performance. Appropriate and varied constraints that capture key functional demands. Reasonable simplifications of the component geometries. Geometric variables that are unconstrained and allowed to vary without changing performance.

Component Geometry

A somewhat obscure but very important aspect of materials selection is the management of component geometry. Begin exploring the textbook for further inspiration, but the following example will help. The project is design of a table, and the component we will consider is the table legs. Look around at tables, and you will notice the leg geometry will vary considerably. Some are square or rectangular in profile, some are solid and others are hollow, many taper for both aesthetic and structural reasons.

Now consider a stiffness constraint on the design: limit deflection under a lateral load to less than a specified amount*. Both the material modulus of elasticity (Young’s Modulus) and the component geometry will affect the stiffness. How do account for all of the variability in geometry? How do you separate geometric from material property influences on stiffness? The answer is to simplify the geometry, and allow for dimensional variability. Here are possibilities:

• Solid circular uniform cross-section (prismatic), diameter as the unconstrained (free) variable.

• Hollow circular prismatic, outer diameter constrained (design specification), inner diameter free.

• Square prismatic, cross-sectional area as a free variable.

Simplified geometry is important because you will need simple algebraic expressions for the performance variable (lateral stiffness in this case.) The free dimension is important because without it you will greatly limit the materials suitable for the design, perhaps even ending up with no materials at all. There may be no material with high enough modulus to keep lateral deflection of an extremely slender table leg below a specified value. Now is the time to begin thinking in these terms, and this assignment will give you some practice.

*Note: The constraint is not “as stiff as possible”, it is “limit deflection to a specified value under applied lateral load.” The distinction is important. Good design comes from clear and appropriate constraints.

Assignment (due next week Thursday)

My name: Group name:

Create a PowerPoint slide deck with the following content. Why PowerPoint? You will often be asked to present your work progress to others during the course of a project. Even if you do not actually deliver the presentation, PowerPoint files are a very convenient way to communicate with others. Groups that I work with in industry and academia function this way, it is a good skill to practice.

1. Give an overall summary of the project idea using material you generated for the first project assignment. Aim to get the main ideas across quickly and efficiently in a few slides.

2. Create a table (see below) that summarizes the individual components of your project idea. You will add detail in the next part of the assignment, but this table is an important way to quickly communicate the essential project ideas. This type of table will help organize your final project effort, and provides a good reference to keep all group members on track.

3. Further describe the project components, each as a section of the presentation. PowerPoint has convenient slide formats to organize content – titles, section headers, etc. Use them to organize your work and make communication with others clearer. You may only need a couple of slides for each component, but someone viewing the presentation ought to have a good sense of what is being designed. You will use these presentations to discuss projects as a group.

Component Objectives Constraints Simplified Geometry Free Dimension

table leg minimize mass 
 minimize C02

no buckling
 no fracture 
 vibration damping

hollow cylinder wall thickness

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