INTRODUCTION AND EXPLANATION FOR STUDENTS


These Notes have been prepared specifically for the current course in mechanical engineering design at UWA, which

The Notes do not cover every topic (eg. fatigue is not yet included); they are available in hard copy and on the web.

It is presumed that students commencing the course are familiar with equilibrium, stresses etc. but have

For these reasons the course first explains what is meant by 'design' and why we go to the trouble of designing. A procedure for creative problem-solving, referred to as the 'rudimentary design process', is described in depth. This procedure is simple enough to be understood and applied successfully by newcomers to design, yet forms a more- than- adequate basis for solving any open- ended problem likely to be encountered by students. The process should be used for design projects in the course.

Design is exemplified in particular through students taking part in a Design & Build competition where kitchen table- top materials and methods of construction are used in preference to sophisticated metal working. This experience should ensure students realising that solving real problems demands both creative and critical thinking.

In view of students' lack of exposure to machine elements (belt drives, springs etc.) the Notes adopt a simple mathematical approach to explain elements' behaviour and safety - however it should be realised that although computers and mathematical models may help in this regard, their ability to reflect all nuances of real behaviour cannot be guaranteed. Engineers cannot do without sound engineering judgement based upon practical knowledge acquired through experience.
Students may wish to supplement the often necessarily brief descriptions of the Notes by consulting the many library texts and references. The web is an increasingly useful descriptive resource.

In practice, some components are designed to guidelines laid down in standard Codes of Practice whose implementation could be disastrous if they are treated like recipe books. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with recipes - provided that they do not replace or inhibit creativity and provided that their limitations are clearly understood - it is a fact that Codes are often applied indiscriminately by students. To help avoid this, the   Notes provide background to assist intelligent application of some important Codes, as undergraduate texts usually offer little help in this regard.

An extremely important objective of the design course is to prepare students for their subsequent careers, not necessarily as 'designers' but as 'ingenious solvers of real problems' ( pronounced 'engineers' ! ) - so this course differs somewhat from other University subjects in that it does not serve up a host of facts and figures for memorising, with subsequent regurgitation in examinations. Rather students are expected to demonstrate

For these reasons

Students should realise that when they graduate they must be prepared to tackle the difficult, ie. previously unencountered, problems - the easy, mundane ones can be solved by someone less qualified and less expensive to hire than them.

Douglas Wright

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