Design lessons from the silent snap

Image  by Eoin Gardiner via flickr (CC BY)

Image by Eoin Gardiner via flickr (CC BY)

Football stadiums can be incredibly loud places. On September 29, 2014, the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs set the world record for the loadest roar at a sports stadium.[1] The crowd noise was recorded to be 142.2 dbA, or roughly equivalent to the sound you would hear standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Continue reading

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A newbie’s reflections on SAE Baja California 2016

#BajaSoCal, because it is not an official event without a hash tag.

#BajaSoCal, because it is not an official event without a hash tag.

Better late than never, they say.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of SAE Baja; however, it is only the first time that I’ve had the privilege of attending an event. I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the four-day competition and provide a newbie’s wide-eyed take on the engineering awesomeness involved. Continue reading

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Multi-variable decisions, Stuart Pugh, and donuts

Image by Ruth Hartnup via flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

Image by Ruth Hartnup via flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

Decisions can be difficult. We often must choose the “best” option from a list of possible alternatives that each possess a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. When buying a car, for example, we will consider factors such as affordability, size, fuel efficiency, appearance, and quality. Rarely is there one alternative that clearly represents the strongest option for every criterion. Instead, we attempt to find an optimal choice that gives us the best mix of qualities based on those factors we deem most important. Continue reading

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Design lessons from the Nalgene bottle

Image courtesy dren88 via flickr (CC BY-SA)

Image courtesy dren88 via flickr (CC BY-SA)

Consider the Nalgene. Anyone who has done even a modest amount of camping will be familiar with these colorful bottles. They are ubiquitous on college and university campuses. You will find them in people’s offices, in people’s homes. In short, they are everywhere. This popularity can be ascribed to a number of features such as their durability,[1] their wide mouths, or the way they don’t affect the taste of their contents.

But the Nalgene originally had a much more narrow focus. It was a laboratory container, one of many developed and sold by the Nalge Company of Rochester, New York. Continue reading

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Design lessons from the badminton birdie

Image by Rebecca Partington via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image by Rebecca Partington via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One may not naturally associate badminton birdies with space flight, but Burt Rutan saw a connection. A shuttlecock inspired his solution to a significant engineering problem.

The Ansari X-Prize was created in 1996 to spur the development of private space travel. Ten million dollars was offered to the first team capable of designing a re-usable system that could take three people 100 km above the Earth, then return them safely to the ground, and do so twice within a two week period. Rutan’s company Scaled Composites, in collaboration with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, developed a vehicle called SpaceShipOne which won the X-Prize in October 2004. Continue reading

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