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Hex-Oid Habitat Design Challenge: Teaching Engineering Design in a Multidisciplinary Role-play Scenario

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Ocean and Marine Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Ocean and Marine

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.843.1 - 26.843.13



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Paper Authors


Robert H. Mayer Jr. U.S. Naval Academy

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Dr. Mayer is a professor of ocean engineering at the U. S. Naval Academy. He is a past chairman of the Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Department and currently teaches courses in ocean engineering design, probability & statistics, and underwater search & recovery operations. His research interests relate to the application of statistics, operations research methods and computers to the management, engineering and construction of ocean engineering systems. He served as chairman of ASEE's Ocean and Marine Engineering Division from 1997-2004, and previously served in the Civil Engineer Corps of the U. S. Navy as an ocean engineer and diving officer. Phone: 410-293-6432. E-mail:

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Angela Schedel U.S. Naval Academy

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Naval Officer, Helicopter Pilot, 1994-2005
Instructor, U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Dept, 2007-2013, 2015-present
Science & Technology Liaison, Office of Naval Research, 2013-2015

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Hex-Oid Habitat Design Challenge: Teaching Engineering Design in a Multidisciplinary Role-Play ScenarioThe Hex-Oid Habitat Design Challenge is an academic exercise providing students with adesign-team experience involving multiple phases of the design process. Besides developing thedesign of a creative underwater habitat, this multidisciplinary design project involves applicationof various design tools and includes an opportunity to refine technical communication skills bothwithin and external to the design team. Working in teams of 4-6, each team member is assigneda distinct design role, e.g., Architect, Buoyancy Control Engineer, Foundation Engineer, CostEngineer, etc. Each is provided a ‘skill primer’, i.e., a brief document describing theirexperience base, criteria and data pertinent to the design effort, and includes a set of strategiesrelevant to their specific role. The habitat-like structure is to be designed by arranging a varietyof hexagonal prisms – differing in weight and functional characteristics – upon a site map ofhexagonal spaces. The overlying team goal is to design a buoyant structure that is aestheticallyappealing and functionally sound, with adequate anchorage and at a competitive cost.The project is introduced early in fall-semester of an introductory design course that serves as aprecursor to capstone design in the spring. Project and role-play instruction, the student designeffort, and classroom presentation of team designs are accomplished in but two weeks ofclassroom time. During the initial project session of the 3-hour-per-week course, the instructorintroduces the project and meets separately with each distinct group of design engineers, i.e., theappropriate skill representative from each team. During the next 3-4 one-hour sessions andoptionally after hours, team members meet together to develop, assess and refine their proposeddesign while resolving conflicts arising from competing criteria, e.g., aesthetics and functionalityvs. cost considerations. During the latter sessions of the second week, one or more teammembers develop a PowerPoint© slide show which is to be presented to the class on the finalday. Each team member is expected to present the key aspects of their area of responsibility totheir classmates and volunteer faculty members who critique both the team design and the oralpresentation.This paper will provide insights into the project tasking; the roles and responsibilities of thedifferent design engineers; the basic engineering computations required of the final design; andthe methods employed for developing cost and construction schedule estimates. It will suggesttypical conflict issues arising and the means to their resolution, and address elements – bothpositive and negative – of the typical team presentation. A summary of project learning goalsand methods of assessment will also be discussed. (Word Count = 420) Sample of Hex-Oid Habitat Design Graphics◦ The Hex-Oid Habitat Design Challenge, set in an underwater environ, was modeled after the MIT Delta Gamedeveloped by L. Bucciarelli and H. Einstein for their course: 1.101 Introduction to Civil and EnvironmentalEngineering Design I, Fall 2006, retrieved from MIT OpenCourseWare,, 11/30/2009.

Mayer, R. H., & Schedel, A. (2015, June), Hex-Oid Habitat Design Challenge: Teaching Engineering Design in a Multidisciplinary Role-play Scenario Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24180

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