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Innovative Conceptual Engineering Design A Template To Teach Innovative Problem Solving Of Complex Multidisciplinary Design Problems

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Creativity and Innovation in Engineering Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.742.1 - 15.742.26



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Paper Authors


Charles Camarda NYU

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CHARLES J. CAMARDA was an astronaut on NASA’s Return-to-Flight mission (STS-114) following the Columbia tragedy, a former Director of Engineering at NASA Johnson Space Center, and currently NASA’s Sr. Advisor for Innovation on detail to NYU-Poly as a Distinguished Engineer in Residence. His educational and research interests include thermal structures, hypersonic vehicle thermal protection systems, heat pipes, and innovative conceptual engineering design and creative problem solving.

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Sven Bilen Pennsylvania State University

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SVEN G. BILÉN is an Associate Professor of Engineering Design, Electrical Engineering, and
Aerospace Engineering at Penn State and Interim Head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs. His educational research interests include developing
techniques for enhancing engineering design education, innovation in design, teaching technological entrepreneurship, global product design, and systems design.

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Olivier de Weck MIT

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OLIVIER DE WECK is professor of Engineering at MIT and holds degrees in industrial engineering from ETH Zurich in Switzerland and aerospace systems engineering from MIT. Prof. de Weck is an Associate Fellow of AIAA, winner of the 2007 Best Paper Award for the journal Systems Engineering, the 2006 Frank E. Perkins award for excellence in graduate advising and recipient of the 2007 AIAA MDO TC outstanding service award. He has published over 150 papers in the area of systems engineering and space systems design and serves as Associate Editor for the AIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. Since July 2008 he serves as associate department head for MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD).

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Jeannette Yen Georgia Institute of Technology

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JEANNETTE YEN is the Director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Biologically Inspired Design, bringing together biologists, engineers, and physical scientists who seek to facilitate interdisciplinary research and education to enhance innovation based on biologically-inspired design solutions. As a Professor in the School of Biology with a focus in biological oceanography, Yen studies how fluid mechanical and chemical cues transported at intermediate Re flow serve as communication channels for aquatic organisms, primarily plankton: the base of aquatic food webs.

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Jack Matson Pennsylvania State University

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JACK V. MATSON, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. His interests are in creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and change. He is the author of "Innovate or Die!" His blog is,

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

Innovative Conceptual Engineering Design—A Template to Teach Innovative Problem Solving of Complex Multidisciplinary Design Problems


The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC), in conjunction with the National Institute for Aerospace (NIA), CIBER, Inc. and faculty from NASA, Georgia Tech, MIT, and Penn State recently developed and taught a short five-day course entitled: “Innovative Engineering Design.” Unlike previous NESC Academy courses, which stressed discipline knowledge capture and transfer from past NASA experiences (e.g., developing complex hardware for programs like Apollo), this course teaches techniques for conceiving innovative concepts to solve complex multidisciplinary problems. The methodology used for this course was one that evolved from experiences working several NASA and joint NASA and DOD advanced development programs.

The processes for rapidly conceiving, evaluating, and developing concepts are explained as well as methodologies for accelerating the maturation of said concepts. The formulation of a five-day short course was a collaboration of faculty and organizations mentioned above. The course centered on the solution of a current critical problem facing NASA: the contingency land landing of the Orion capsule. The Orion capsule is a four-to-six-person spacecraft launched atop the Ares I rocket as part of the Constellation Program (CxP). The current Orion design would result in injury to the crew in the event of a land landing.

This paper is an overview of the format, teaching methodology, and resultant ideas/concepts that students conceived and developed by analysis and, in some cases, both analysis and test in only five days. Several of the ideas were novel and had not been pursued by the CxP. Several of the ideas are currently being pursued by commercial space launch companies. Viable solutions conceived by the students received funding by NASA and are currently under study by several of the faculty and students of Penn State and MIT.

The paper presents an overview of the course philosophy and format as well as some of the concepts that were presented by the five student teams on the last day of the course.


NASA is currently struggling to develop innovative solutions to human spaceflight challenges that the Agency had solved successfully over thirty years ago. The development of a new launch system that mimics much of the technologies developed for the Apollo Program has been beset with program delays, technical design problems, and cost overruns. While the Vision for Space Exploration’s (VSE) requirements include a larger crewed vehicle and different objectives than the Apollo Program, the new vehicles (Ares I launch vehicle, Orion Capsule, Ares V launch vehicle, etc.) are supposed to take advantage of Shuttle-derived systems such as the solid rocket boosters (SRBs). The bureaucratic morass of rules, processes, and procedures developed for a once-thought “operational” vehicle such as the Space Shuttle are still evident and have dimmed the spark of creativity and innovation, which was once the hallmark of a once great and highly

Camarda, C., & Bilen, S., & de Weck, O., & Yen, J., & Matson, J. (2010, June), Innovative Conceptual Engineering Design A Template To Teach Innovative Problem Solving Of Complex Multidisciplinary Design Problems Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16691

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