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Trinity College-Stanford Design collaboration

4 June 2014

Following from last year's collaboration, where a team of Trinity students collaborated on a project (sponsored by SAP, Palo Alto) with a team of students in Stanford University as part of the world-renowned ME310 Design Innovation program, this year saw an increased level of activity between the two universities.

Prof. Kevin Kelly spent 3 months in Stanford University in 2013, deeply immersed in their design culture and activities and on his return mounted a new project-based course in the MAI Engineering with Management programme - 4E5 Innovation in Product Development. In a strong endorsement of last year's engagement, this year saw two projects in collaboration with Stanford - one sponsored by SAP, Dublin, and the other by Panasonic, Palo Alto, and a further 'local' project with Spinal Injuries Ireland.

The projects see the students address real world problems from a user-centred perspective, applying the paradigm of engineering design thinking to create innovative solutions Teams are presented with a 'design prompt' in September and continue working on the project until the end of the academic year, going through three overlapping phases of problem definition, solution identification and solution implementation. Explaining what makes this approach so powerful, course director Prof. Kelly explained: "Engineering design thinking complements the traditional 'structured' design process that engineers follow, by really focussing on empathy with the end-user so that the 'real problem' is correctly identified. Henry Ford famously said that if he gave his customers what they said they wanted, he would have tried to build a faster horse. By really involving the user in the design and by spending so much time understanding their perspective we can then harness our technical know-how to deliver innovative solutions that meet a real customer need. Our students get really passionate and involved and learn a huge amount from collaborating with these leading universities around the world and delivering real, functional high quality prototypes. It is about much more than the clever idea - we have to actually make it work!"

The students finished up their studies here with an 'Engineering Innovation Evening' held in the Science Gallery on April 11th, where an invited audience from industry and academia were presented with the results of their projects and got to have a hands-on experience with the prototype products developed. The SAP and Panasonic student teams will repeat this exercise when they travel to California for 'Expe' on the 5th June - an annual event in Stanford attended by over 500 guests, where the ME310 students display their product prototypes.