Dr Stuart Grey

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Video: An Introduction to the Principles of Design - University of Glasgow - STEM in 10

Aug 29, 2023

In my talk, I delve into the subject of engineering design, a process essential for tackling the world's most pressing problems. Initially, it might seem that engineering design follows a simple, linear path: identify a need, develop a vision, and finally, deliver a product. However, I argue that this linear method is insufficient.

Instead, I advocate for a cyclical and iterative process that begins with defining the problem at hand. This is followed by information gathering, brainstorming solutions, prototype development, testing, and finally, applying the feedback to further refine our understanding of the problem. Through each cycle, the objective is not merely to create new designs but to enhance our understanding of the problem itself.

I highlight the example of the Wright Brothers, who, though not aerodynamic experts, followed a rigorous design process that emphasised the testing phase. This allowed them to successfully make the first sustained powered flight.

One of the core elements of this iterative design process is error correction. Coupled with this, I stress the importance of blending theoretical and experiential knowledge, which are underpinned fundamentally by mathematics. However, I emphasise that mathematics in engineering is not just about equations; it’s about understanding the abstract relationships that explain how the universe operates.

In conclusion, tackling complex engineering problems is a collaborative effort that requires a diverse team. While mathematics serves as the foundation, effective language and communication skills are indispensable tools for any engineering designer. So if you're keen to solve some of the world's most challenging issues, consider joining us at the James Watt School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow.