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ME228T The Future of Mechanical Engineering Education

Experts in design and manufacturing education share their experiences and teaching modes.

ME228T is a seminar series where experts in design and manufacturing education from around the country share their experiences with new teaching modes and their visions for how to reimagine design and manufacturing education. Expect to learn about new teaching techniques, especially involving open-ended design problems, digital fabrication, and testing of prototypes, and about new ways of creating inclusive learning environments for students from diverse backgrounds.

Students and guests attend weekly one-hour lectures, Tuesdays at 4:30 in 530-127, and provide feedback on what they hear via a web survey. Student feedback will be used by the department to help shape the future of our teaching, and to help select new faculty to add to our department. We hope you will join the conversation! 

Jan 17:  Brandon Reynante, Stanford University
Jan 24:  Kate Stephenson, Dyad Engineering
Jan 31:  Nathan Melenbrink, Harvard University
Feb 7:    Scott Evans, University of Texas at Austin
Feb 14:  Eric Richardson, Duke University
Feb 21:  Matthew Wettergreen, Rice University
Feb 28:  Haakon Faste, California College of the Arts
Mar 14:  Matthew Ohline, Intuitive Surgical

Past speakers:

Dream Realization: Opportunities for the Future of Design and Manufacturing Education

Haakon Faste

Practice-based education, through hands on making, is essential to design and engineering. It helps us to integrate knowledge and develop new skills, envision and experience alternative designs, communicate our thinking, and ultimately impact the world through the things we create. Learning to make things well requires individual practice to develop "tacit" or embodied knowledge, yet professionally designers and engineers also work in teams where culture, collaboration and management are central. In this talk I will discuss opportunities to enhance the future of making education, both personally and socially, through examples of design projects from my teaching and practice.

Haakon Faste is a design leader, educator, and innovation consultant. He is currently Design Director for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems at Ford Motor Company, and from 2013-2022 he was Associate Professor and co-founder of the Interaction Design program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. From 2010-2013 he served on the faculty of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where his research centered on socially responsible innovation, design education, and computer assisted collaborative creativity. Haakon holds a Ph.D. in Perceptual Robotics from the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, and a BA in physics and studio art from Oberlin College. A former design leader at IDEO in Palo Alto, he has led technology design projects for clients including Toyota, Microsoft, PepsiCo, the New York Yankees and David Bowie.

Design for Sustainability and Social Justice: Towards a New Paradigm for Mechanical Engineering Education

Brandon Reynante

Mechanical engineering has a long history of perpetuating unsustainable and inequitable systems, and it has one of the lowest representations of women and racial/ethnic minorities of any field or discipline. This situation has been attributed to a “culture of disengagement” — a set of ideologies and practices embedded within engineering culture that frame social and ethical issues as irrelevant, which students adopt through educational socialization. These ideologies are reflected in the dominant engineering design paradigms: design for technology and human-centered design. I believe we need a new design paradigm, one that centers sustainability and social justice. In this talk, I will present a case study of how I implemented this paradigm in a humanitarian engineering program at the University of California, San Diego. The curriculum incorporated various design strategies (design for social justice, circular design) and pedagogies (liberation, maker, service learning) to challenge the culture of disengagement. I focus on one particular project that aims to address the prevalence of poverty and a lack of reliable, affordable lighting in a rural village in the Philippines. Examination of learning outcomes suggest that students developed the requisite mindsets and skills to design socio-technical systems that work toward dismantling oppression and regenerating the environment.

Brandon Reynante is a PhD candidate in learning sciences and technology design at Stanford University. He is passionate about creating learning experiences that empower people to design and build sustainable and equitable solutions to complex socio-ecological problems. Prior to Stanford, Brandon was a lecturer in a humanitarian engineering program at UC San Diego that partnered student teams with nonprofit organizations to co-create solutions to pressing societal challenges. Before that, he managed and performed analysis-driven design of complex mechanical systems (e.g., clean energy technologies, spacecraft, theme-park rides) at an engineering firm. Brandon holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from UC San Diego and an S.M. in aerospace engineering from MIT, and he is a licensed professional engineer. 

Making the Future: Meeting the Need for the next Generation of Design and Manufacturing Education

Kate Stephenson

The next two decades will bring a major shift in how products are designed and manufactured on a global scale. Issues like sustainability, social equity and a return to domestic manufacturing will challenge the production infrastructure that has supported us for the last 50 years. Stanford plays a valuable role in this future by educating the engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists who will implement that change. This seminar will present an overview of the broad social and technological issues shaping modern manufacturing, a snapshot of education programs attempting to address these changes, and specific examples of traditional design and manufacturing curriculum updated and adapted for new contexts.

Dr. Katherine (Kate) Stephenson is a Stanford Engineering PhD with a deep technical consulting background in new product ventures and manufacturing. She has a twenty-year history of strategic early-stage technical projects in a range of industries, including medical device, drug delivery, advanced manufacturing, telecom, and aerospace. A long-term resident of California’s Silicon Valley, her active network spans the start-up community, including R1 academic centers, incubators, investors, and startups. She is a speaker, author, industry event facilitator and mentor who believes passionately in connecting and educating diverse groups of people to address the complex "wicked" problems in our world. A "maker" in both her professional and personal life, she spends her off hours training her teenagers in tool use in her garage, creating and playing elaborate tabletop strategy games and nerding out over manufacturing equipment at trade shows.

Design Thinking & Rapid Prototyping for Personal Fabrication

Nathan Melenbrink

In this seminar, Nathan Melenbrink will present his vision for design and manufacturing education. For the past 12 years, he has created and taught novel hands-on skill-building courses in departments ranging from architecture to computer science. He has been involved with teaching and research at a number of institutions, most recently Harvard and MIT. In his courses, students learn electronics fundamentals, microcontroller programming, CNC milling, 3D printing, and sensor and mechanism design. However, of greater importance than the mastery of the individual topics is the synthesis of those skills toward a personal project of the student’s own conception. These courses are open to students of any discipline or skill level, and combine the open-endedness and “freedom to fail” of the design studio model with the technical rigor and guidance that is characteristic of engineering project classes. Nathan will share examples from recent course work, including projects such as kinetic sculptures, drawing machines, novel musical instruments, renewable energy machines, devices for remote sensing and data logging, environmental monitoring and remediation, and devices for home automation.

Nathan Melenbrink is a designer, educator, and digital fabrication specialist. Since 2019, he has taught PS70: Introduction to Digital Fabrication, a new course that he developed at Harvard. Nathan also teaches at MIT, where he leads courses on design thinking and rapid prototyping related to climate and renewable energy. Specifically, as part of a collaboration with the National University of Mongolia, he oversees the design and technical development of a thermal battery aimed at reducing the coal pollution problem in Ulaanbaatar. He has previously taught courses related to design, computation, robotics and CAD/CAM at institutions such as Northeastern, Virginia Tech, and the University of Hong Kong. His past research interests have included distributed robotics for land restoration (supported by Harvard’s Wyss Institute) as well as design for autonomous construction and maintenance (supported by NASA). His industry experience as an architect and computational designer includes offices such as UNStudio, Playze, and ECADI. He holds a Bachelor’s of Architecture from Virginia Tech, a Master’s in Design Studies in Technology from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and a Doctorate of Engineering from the Institute for Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart.

Do it to Learn it: How University Makerspaces Can Be Crafted Into Vibrant Communities and Incubators for Innovators

Scott Evans

The only way to really learn how to design, fabricate or prototype is to actually do these things.  Fortunately, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent building and operating prototyping facilities at universities across the Unites States, often touted and compared by the number of square feet, the number of 3D printers, the number of classes and the total number of visitors.  But more important is where students start, what they create, how they grow and how they help each other along the way.  It’s the culture in combination with programming, collaboration (with curricula, programs and organizations) and facilities that matters and can serve as a foundation of a vibrant community.  One that can be welcoming to complete novices from any background, inspiring for students at all levels, and ultimately help every student evolve toward becoming a collaborator, mentor, courageous designer, inventor and innovator.

Come join this seminar to learn why culture is key and how programming, collaboration and facilities can evolve into something really special.  It’s a process that takes time and is probably never complete. But, thinking in terms of this ecosystem and aligning the many pieces towards both enhancing real design work (including invention and innovation) and the creation of designers is inherently about greater impact, greater value and creating the future of education.  Even now, it’s increasingly common for companies to arrive at university campuses asking students not, “what did you study”, or ”what do you know” but rather, “what can you do?”

Dr. Scott Evans is the Director of Texas Inventionworks (TIW) in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.  TIW is a program that includes product development, innovative curriculum, partnerships with many colleges across campus and facilities for building almost anything.  Dr. Evans has designed and built products and manufacturing processes in many industry sectors, created R&D programs, founded materials science startups, served as an innovation consultant to engineering companies in several countries and developed graduate-level technology commercialization courses.  In his most recent class, teams of students from seven different colleges chose meaningful problems and created new products to solve them.  Dr. Evans studied mechanical engineering at The University of Arizona, The Georgia Institute of Technology (researching MEMS devices) and The University of Texas (researching additive manufacturing) earning a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. respectively.

Accelerating the Integration of Making with Engineering Coursework

Eric Richardson

As virtual education rapidly expands, physical design and manufacturing (or “making”) remains a key differentiator of in-person engineering education. Coincidentally, virtual education can create unprecedented room to inject more making into our coursework. When integrated efficiently, making has the potential to enrich virtual and classroom instruction in novel ways.

To become more integrated into our curriculum, making education must become more inclusive: Inclusive of students with differing educational and life experiences, inclusive of the unique problems they want to solve, inclusive of new fabrication tools, and inclusive of people and institutions outside of academia.

The integration of making can also be accelerated by broadening our applications of making: making for enjoyment, making to communicate, making to learn and test, and making to manufacture. Each of these approaches can contribute to engineering education in unique ways.

In this discussion, I will share successes (and failures) of integrating making with engineering coursework. I will also share ideas for future educational initiatives and experiments, recognizing that integration will be a constant, iterative process.

Eric Richardson is an Associate Professor of the Practice at Duke University and the Founding Director of Duke Design Health. His teaching and research focus on design and manufacturing, particularly for underserved populations in medicine. His programs and courses bring together students and faculty from engineering, business, nursing, and medicine. He works closely with institutions like Boston Scientific, Becton Dickinson, Baxter International, NASA, and others to give students exposure to authentic, impactful problems. He has developed and taught courses with institutions in Costa Rica, Brazil, Tanzania, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka to encourage local design and manufacturing. Prior to Duke, Richardson was at Rice University where he was the Founding Director of the Global Medical Innovation Program, which develops and implements medical technology in emerging markets. He also co-created and led the Texas Medical Center Biodesign Fellowship, a program that creates digital health and medical device startups. Before Rice, he was a Principal R&D Engineer at Medtronic in California, where he developed transcatheter heart valves and other cardiac devices that serve over one million patients worldwide. Richardson has several publications, patents, and book chapters related to medical technology, and is involved with several startups.

Developing Student Professional and Technical Skills Through a Transformative Hands-On Engineering Design Curriculum

Matthew Wettergreen

Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) opened in 2009 simply as a physical space for undergraduate engineering students to conduct their work in a collaborative setting. Despite having all the machines and tools of a modern makerspace, it is the OEDK’s community and novel engineering design curriculum, not the tools, that have revolutionized engineering education at Rice, evolving this collaborative hub to encourage engineering students at all levels to tackle authentic, real-world design challenges. Central to this curriculum is the use of the engineering design process as a unifying principle that spans courses and extracurricular opportunities. Students work in multidisciplinary teams and are supported by a web of mentors who emphasize the use of this design process, analytical thinking, engineering rigor, defensible decisions, teamwork, technical communication, and time management. A hallmark of our approach is the use of readily available materials as a starting point for all student design projects regardless of level or skill, teaching students to build like the rest of the world. Students who graduate having spent extended time in the OEDK benefit from practicing their technical and professional skills and are prepared to tackle complex and pressing global challenges and emerge as engineering leaders in their fields. In this talk, you’ll hear about the development and constant redesign of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen’s hands-on engineering design curriculum and how we might inform new engineering design curriculums of the future.

Matthew Wettergreen is Director of the Global Medical Innovation Master of Bioengineering program at Rice University. He is also an Associate Teaching Professor at the award-winning Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) at Rice University, recruited as the first full-time faculty. At the OEDK he co-developed six of the seven engineering design courses in the design curriculum, including the flagship First-Year Engineering Design and Prototyping and Fabrication course. Wettergreen is the co-author of the textbook Introduction to Engineering Design. Wettergreen has over ten years of experience developing client-based engineering design courses, and a deep interest in engineering education, specifically programming that can be employed to build capacity for student development in makerspaces. Building off of this interest, he has taught and mentored faculty in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Sub-Saharan Africa to develop engineering design curriculum featuring research-supported teaching strategies. He holds degrees in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois-Chicago (B.S.) and Rice University (Ph.D.).

Making and Project-Based Learning as a Means to Mastery in Engineering

Matt Ohline

Traditional mechanical engineering curricula develops expertise analyzing and modeling a broad range of physical phenomena, which is essential.  However, equally important is expertise taking designs from inception to reality, which involves transforming ideas into functional physical objects and systems.  In a virtuous cycle, the idea informs the analysis, which informs the making, which in turn leads to further development of both the analysis and the realization of the idea.  Graduates of engineering programs that strike the right balance between analysis and making are the most capable, and engineers capable of doing both well are highly valued and sought-after.  In this talk, we will explore lessons learned from many years of efforts to find this balance by delivering project-based mechatronics courses at Stanford – all of which involve making and demonstrating complex prototype designs.  We will discuss best practices for creating projects that result in learning experiences that are impossible to forget, inspire students’ strongest commitments and best efforts, and develop creative confidence, mastery, and in the best cases, a life-long passion for the subject.  We will also examine how these approaches can be applied in emerging subjects in mechanical engineering and manufacturing, as Stanford’s engineering curriculum grows and adapts to meet future needs.

Matt Ohline is the Senior Director of Process Engineering for Intuitive Surgical’s Endoluminal business unit, where he leads teams of automation, manufacturing, and supplier engineers focused on creating the manufacturing processes and equipment for Intuitive’s newest products that perform robotic procedures within the lung, and scaling the manufacturing of Intuitive’s fastest-growing existing product lines.  This position provides ample opportunities to pursue his interests in ideation, early-stage design, rapid prototyping, DFx/concurrent engineering, automated manufacturing equipment design, precision engineering, measurement systems, and applications of statistical techniques and data analytics in manufacturing environments.  
Prior to joining Intuitive, Mr. Ohline held positions in Stanford University’s Mechanical Engineering Design Group as a lecturer and consulting associate professor, where he taught courses in mechatronics (ME210, ME218), mobile device-mechatronic hybrid systems (ME202), and sensors (ME220).  He also served as the Product Realization Lab’s Director of Mechatronics.  Mr. Ohline is the co-founder of two venture-funded medical device start-up companies:  Neoguide Systems, where he served as CTO (acquired by Intuitive Surgical in 2009), and Treus Medical, where he was CEO.  He holds 33 issued US patents and several international patents. 
Mr. Ohline received his BAS in Mechanical Engineering and English in 1992 from Stanford University, where he also completed his MSME in 1994 with foci in Mechatronics and Combustion. 

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