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Revamping Delta Design for Introductory Mechanics

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Technology in Mechanics Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1129.1 - 25.1129.23



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Paper Authors


Michelle Marie Grau Stanford Univeristy

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Michelle Grau is a junior in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, and was one of the students in the first revision of ENGR 14, Introduction to Solid Mechanics. Her research interests include engineering education, robotics in space applications, and using robots to introduce engineering to middle school students. She is passionate about the FIRST Robotics program, in which she coaches teams and volunteers at competitions. She also does wushu and gymnastics.

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Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education-related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on weld and solder-connect fatigue and impact failures, fracture mechanics, applied finite element analysis, and engineering education. In addition, from 1999-2008, she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). Sheppard’s graduate work was done at the University of Michigan.

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Samantha Ruth Brunhaver Stanford University

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Samantha Brunhaver is a fourth-year graduate student at Stanford University. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a focus in engineering education. Brunhaver completed a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University in 2008 and a M.S. in mechanical engineering with a focus in design for manufacturing from Stanford in 2010.

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Revamping Delta Design for Introductory MechanicsThe Delta Design game was developed by MIT Professor Louis Bucciarelli for college-levelengineering education. The main goal is to demonstrate that designing in teams is as much asocial process as it is a technical one, and that compromise is a key part of creating a successfuldesign. Four students, each with a different role, form a design team and are tasked withdeveloping an imaginary structure that meets the different sets of constraints posed by eachposition. The four roles are the structural engineer, thermal engineer, project manager, andarchitect. Each team must design a residence in an imaginary world which they build with redand blue triangles on a diamond grid. The red and blue tiles mean different things to each player.For example, the thermal engineer sees the red triangles as heat-producing elements, while theproject manager sees them as a representation of cost. Each player also has different constraintsthat they are trying to optimize, e.g. the structural engineer calculates moments and safety factorsto make sure the design is safe, the project manager keeps track of cost and time, and thearchitect makes sure that the end result is aesthetically pleasing to the future inhabitants. It is acomplex game, requiring the students to be trained in their roles beforehand, and takes at leastthree hours to complete. In addition, instructors can make the game more or less challenging bychanging the values of certain constraints such as the cost or adding complexities like gravityshifts.We redesigned this game for a sophomore-level engineering mechanics course in order toemphasize the role of structural mechanics in the design process and reinforce concepts beingtaught in the class. The goals of this redesign were to make the game more relevant by removingthe positions on the design team that were unrelated to the course (e.g. the thermal engineer andthe architect), making the game shorter so that it can be played in a class period, and maintainingthe emphasis on teamwork in the design process. Examples of the modifications include addingdesign constraints to the two remaining positions to keep the complex nature of the game as wellas recommending the use of Excel spreadsheets to do the calculations more quickly. This fall, wewill be piloting the redesigned game with 80 students in an Introduction to Solid Mechanicscourse. In this paper, we fully describe our decision-making process to redesign the game, thedesign changes, the implementation of the game in the mechanics class, and assess how well theredesigned game met its educational goals. We hope the game increases students’ engagementand conceptual understanding in learning solid mechanics, and helps students draw a connectionbetween the course material and real-world applications. We will survey the students after theyplay the game to see if it was an effective learning tool.

Grau, M. M., & Sheppard, S., & Brunhaver, S. R. (2012, June), Revamping Delta Design for Introductory Mechanics Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21886

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