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Trinity Engineers Innovate in New Creative Design Space

Posted on 18 December 2013

Dublin city

Creative spaces facilitate creative collaboration. Inspired by Stanford’s “D-School” and Aalto University’s “Design Factory”, the Trinity College Dublin Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering has recently set up “design•loft TCD”. The design•loft is aligned with best international practice in engineering design innovation by providing a creative space for user-centred design complete with prototyping equipment. The design•loft aims to foster innovation by putting the right people in the right space to cultivate ideas.

Dr Gareth J. Bennett, Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and founder of the  design•loft explained: “We want our students to be able to create employment through entrepreneurship. The development of modules such as those located in the design•loft helps to develop the requisite skills for successful product design and to develop confidence in the students within the safety of an academic setting. Armed with these experiences, our graduates will hopefully feel more empowered to help grow our future.”

Trinity engineering students work with community groups such as the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) or the National Disability Authority (NDA) within “Service Leaning” modules that allow the students to engage with real end users and prioritise diverse needs for Universal Design. Flexible, reconfigurable furniture, walls painted with “Idea Paint” which allows eureka moments to be captured before they are forgotten, white boards and brainstorming space all enable dynamic groups to identify design opportunities and develop concepts for innovative solutions. Trinity College Dublin students collaborate with their peers from Stanford University on year-long, industry-sponsored group projects within Stanford’s International ME310 programme, in which Trinity’s School of Engineering is a member.

Trinity’s Engineering students deliver more than just groundbreaking ideas. Rapid, iterative, rudimentary prototype development allows the students to bring their user-centred designs to life. When this is followed by the development of a high-quality, high-specification product using some of the more advanced equipment in the “loft”, the students can present tangible solutions. A full 4-axis computer numerical control (CNC) router system is the most recent of these advanced tools to be commissioned. The system, provided by JBEC and StoneyCNC, gives students access to technology that operates on the same principles as full-scale industrial production equipment. A former Trinity undergradate and postgraduate student, Rory Stoney of Stoney CNC, said:   “Design for Manufacture is a key aspect of any design process and by providing the students with direct hands-on access to a real CNC machine tool and its supporting technologies, we hope that the system installation will help the new generation of design students to refine their skills.” The design•loft allows people to come together and engage, to share ideas, to make, to learn, to enjoy themselves, to push themselves and to discover real solutions to real-world problems.