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Engineering Design And Common Household Devices

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.260.1 - 5.260.7

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Paper Authors

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Edward H. McMahon

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3425

Engineering Design and Common Household Devices

Edward McMahon The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Most design is redesign. Some might suggest this is an overstatement, while others may say all design is redesign. An engineering manager at a large appliance manufacturer told me, "Some engineers, fresh out of school, think they are going to be working on innovative, far out, projects and are disappointed when asked to work on a redesign of one our standard products". One component of our junior level methodology course is and individual project is aimed at redesign of a simple appliance. Simple appliances are accessible, familiar to the students, embody engineering science, and demonstrate the complexity of design for apparently simple devices. Each student selects a different appliance in a blind draw. The devices are found around the house and range from a hair curler to a car jack. The initial problem statement is "Improve the performance of a _____________."

A series of assignments, from the first assignment aimed at understanding the operation of the device to the final assignment aimed at developing a preliminary design, are completed in parallel with the lectures. These assignments are submitted as draft reports. The students correct and compile these draft reports into two formal reports, a design proposal and a preliminary design report.

The use of simple appliances provides the students with exposure to the design elements of an existing design, the opportunity to apply of a systematic design approach to improve a product, and experience in formal report writing. The individual project, combined with traditional assignments, tests and a group design project provide a complete design learning experience.

I. Background

Nature of the Course - Common household devices are used as an individual design assignment in a junior level course, Introduction to Engineering Design. The course is interdisciplinary in nature and is taught to all engineering disciplines in our program. The assignments on individual design projects closely follow the lecture schedule. This individual design assignment counts as 20-30% of the grade in the course. In addition to the individual assignment the student

McMahon, E. H. (2000, June), Engineering Design And Common Household Devices Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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