New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Senior design projects are essential capstone experiences to Mechanical Engineering students that allow them to integrate and apply the knowledge they attained in all of their prerequisite courses. Generally, senior students are required to engineer a system that can be purely mechanical or interdisciplinary such as a biomedical, automotive, or aerospace system. Traditionally, Mechanical Engineering curricula focus on the specifics of each component or subsystem with no regard, or at best little regard, to the overall system requirements. On the one hand, the undergraduate thermofluid sequence of courses emphasizes the fundamentals of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. While, the details of thermofluid system design are usually taught at the senior or graduate level. On the other hand, design and mechanics courses focus on teaching students the aspects of analyzing certain mechanical elements components such as shafts, pulleys, and gears. Overall systems design courses are only available in limited graduate programs nationwide. This educational approach creates a gap in students’ understanding of system level requirements; thus, issues usually arise at the interfaces between subsystems in senior design projects. The current approach in senior design courses to remedy the system interface problem is Edisonian, while engineering practice is moving towards a systematic approach to design and realization. In this paper, a basic and effective approach to integrate the fundamentals of Systems Engineering into the engineering design processes is discussed. The approach consists of developing a dynamic System Level Diagram (SLD), where students transpose the system and interface requirements onto a 2-dimensional block diagram. The SLD is constructed by arranging each component and interface using flowchart methodology, where the number of components is based on the design problem while the interfaces are defined based on physical aspects such as the underlying physics, available local and distributed manufacturing facilities, and structural boundary conditions. This systems approach was adopted by graduating mechanical engineering senior design students who elected to compete in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Aero Design Competition, during which they developed a system level diagram for their system. They initially developed a layout of the RC aircraft system, then continuously updated the system level diagram throughout the design and the realization processes. The system level diagram was proven to be instrumental during the synthesis, tradeoff, analysis, fabrication, assembly, and testing phases of the project. The system diagram was also used for management, supply chain, and quality assurance aspects of the project. Overall, students reported substantial gain in their design skills and system level understanding.
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