Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Laboratory Cool. Fuel.

ME 316 Lesson 10: Energy and Information Design Paradigms

Spatial and temporal spectrums are useful as a first step to breaking down systems, but quickly run into limits. Energy is likely a particularly useful spectrum to categorize our design alternatives within the context of this project. Consider how the Advanced Research Project Administration for Energy (ARPA-E) classifies energy conversion devices:

ARPA-E paradigm chart

Let’s take 15 minutes in our sub-teams and try to fill as many of the squares as possible with designs concepts for our sub-assemblies. An excel version of this is posted to the ME 316 slack thread. If you have an … » More …

ME 316 Lesson 9: Design Paradigms (Spatial and Temporal)

With our design specification nailed down, we now begin the process of idea generation. Let’s start with a quick exercise:

Get out a sheet of paper and write down the first thing that comes to your mind when I tell you to think of:

a color,
a hand tool,
a flower,
a piece of furniture.

Let’s see how you did:






Was your color blue or red?

Blue and Red

Was your tool a hammer or screwdriver?

Hammer and Screwdriver» More …

ME 316 Lesson 8: Technology Development (TRLs)











As engineers, one of the things we all need to be mindful of throughout the design and development process is our stage in technology development. It’s pretty obvious that every technology we have today is supported by a long chain of discoveries, tests, research, and development to get to the products we have in front of us. Insight into where our current efforts fit in that chain can be extremely helpful … » More …

ME 316 Lesson 7: Quality Function Deployment and Design Matrix Methods

Now that we’ve 1) interviewed our customers, 2) reviewed basic literature on the topic, 3) divided the project into sub-assemblies, and 4) began specifying desired traits and characteristic functions of the sub-assemblies, it’s time we merge everything together via tools called Design Structure Matrix (DSM) Methods. Professor Steven Eppinger has published a companion to your textbook on the topic. DSM’s are useful for spotting the connections and relationships in complex systems. Take for example the problem of assessing the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) for the Mars Curiosity Rover:

Architecture DSM Example

We used our intuition, post-its, … » More …

ME 316 Lesson 6: Form follows function

Today is Louis Henry Sullivan’s birthday. Sullivan’s wiki-page lists him as a famous American Architect widely considered the “Father of the Skyscraper.” In an 1896 essay Sullivan wrote:

Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling workhorse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change form does not change. The granite rocks, the ever-brooding hills, remain for ages;the lightning lives, comes into shape, and dies in a twinkling.

» More …

ME 316 Lesson 5: Defining What a Design MUST and SHOULD do

For those of you curious, Jake was lucky enough to be in Florida watching the MUOS-4 launch this morning and won’t be back until Friday. This is a great example of a complex system like the one we will be designing (and uses liquid hydrogen too!).

Now that you have seen the competition requirements, talked with our customers/clients, and had a chance to read relevant literature on your specific topic, you should have a pretty good understanding of what is required and some of the specific challenges we will have to rise to meet. It’s time to start talking systems design!

No engineer, regardless … » More …

ME 316 Lesson 4: Literature Reviews

There’s an old saying — “A week’s worth of time spent in the library can save a year’s worth of time in the laboratory.”

Of course today the time is usually spent on-line with Google instead of the library. Enter the quantity vs. quality debate. Do you want 5 highly relevant sources to your project with the chance that you miss an important one? Or 5 million potentially relevant sources to your project that you have to sift through to find the golden nuggets? The answer is probably the first which means you need to talk to a librarian.

Contrary to popular belief, librarians are … » More …

Telling vs. Showing by Theory

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” ~Lao Tze

A traditional engineering homework assignment wants you to tell us the answer. Need proof? Look at a calculator and see how hard it is to plot a function or curve. Calculators are typewriters and should have vanished long ago. Asking someone to tell us an answer is much easier than plotting a trend or curve. Plotting requires spatial awareness of the physical interplay of operators within your mathematical function. Explaining plots shows us that we understand why trends appear.

Showing by theory is essential in complex systems … » More …

Conformance vs. Compliance


The difference is subtle:



and one is used to define the other —



— but from a design standpoint the difference is essential. Where conformance must follow an algorithm, compliance can follow a desire, wish, or even yes, a rule or process. Dr. Chuck has a great piece on how companies tend to follow a design progression from mystery –> heuristic –> algorithm. We emphasize heuristic’s over algorithms in ME 316 because we tend to engineer things that are … » More …

Recorder vs. Reporter

A ritual hazing practice in many organizations (including department meetings) is to ask the newest person in the room to “take the minutes”, “secretary” is too loaded of a term now, so we call them a recorder:



12 years ago I thought I was novel for typing meeting minutes in an e-mail window in real time and sending to the team at the close of the meeting. After awhile though I realized that nobody went back and read the minutes. Thank goodness they didn’t! My recording was sloppy relative to the free audio recorder apps on most cellphones nowadays.

» More …