Over the course of 2 semesters of engineering design, inside or outside of my engineering design course, I can say I have been thoroughly introduced to the broad concept of design.

In my civil engineering course during first semester, it was detailed design, applying analysis techniques from structural engineering to iterate and create an effective design. In my second semester course, Praxis II, it was far more conceptual, and came down to details only in all the research and reading.

Along the way, it’s always been about balance. In my civil engineering course, I struggled to bridge (no pun intended) the massive distance between doing detailed calculation based analysis and trying to manage the very limited materials we had to work with to create the bridge. At this point, I learned about prototyping, and it never went away.

Indeed, the first time i found myself actually in NEED of prototyping was the project that had us build a beam from cardboard and glue. The challenge was to manage our finite amount of cardboard and see what was the size limit of the bridge we were going to build.

It was then that system 1 also found its way into my toolbox. It was solely my intuition that lead me to draw out a scaled version of the cardboard we had to work with, and sketch on it the scaled sizes of all the sections we would have to cut out. My group member used that to optimize our cutting and we were able to figure out how much more material we had to work with in various directions. This then fed back into our detailed design, we adjusted our dimensions for the bridge, and checked again the material we had. Then we locked in our dimensions and finalized our calculations.

The last half of this past semester in Praxis II was again about finding a complicated balance. My team was ambitious and aspirational, looking to great solution that was on a higher level than just a single device. It was a stimulating challenge to maintain a reasonable scope on our rapidly shrinking timescale, but also come up with something that we could feel satisfied with.

More thoughts and analyses on my learning over the course of my first year are around my website, primarily in the My Work section. Be sure to take a look!


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