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The Importance of Design Reviews in Engineering

In high school, I participated in the NASA Student Launch Initiative which enabled high school students to build high-power rockets and get a feel for engineering through design reviews. When I came to Embry-Riddle though, many engineering clubs lacked the design reviews which I thought were common practice, and it showed.

Sophomore year, I took on a leadership role within the Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers and Developers Society (ERFSEDS). My job was to teach high-power rocketry to a team of students who have no prior knowledge of the topic and compete in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC). The year started off great, but I quickly ran into a problem with people no longer showing up to my meetings. I figured I was doing something wrong and tried changing my way of teaching which helped a little, but something still wasn’t right. I’ve since realized that my team had no accountability and many people felt like they were only doing something that they could do elsewhere no problem.

When all was said and done, I successfully took a team to IREC and placed 4th overall in our category, but left a lot of people without the knowledge they wished to gain. Throughout the year I had delegated tasks and spent a lot of time trying to engage others instead of just building it all myself as previous team leads had done and as I had ended up doing anyway.

Fast-forward to this school year and I’ve now become president of ERFSEDS. I wanted to make sure that the same thing never happens again, so I thought back to my high school years and how smoothly things ran with those NASA-required documents. As I brought up the idea, many people were frustrated with the thought of extra work getting in the way of the task at-hand. When finally everyone was slightly convinced, we decided to put it through a trial run. As the preliminary design report deadline approached, teams started to complain about it, but eventually had their reports ready for the due date. The executive board noticed that a lot more analysis and design was being done along with testing and proof that designs won’t fail. The reports were far from perfect, but that was because the teams had never completed anything like this before. Many potential problems were identified that the original designers failed to recognize, and ideas for improvement came about as well. Team members were able to see where they need improvement such as in CAD model drafting, things to look out for in structural analysis software, and even areas of improvement in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).

After teams completed their first milestone (the Preliminary Design Review) they all seemed to recognize the importance of and appreciate the Design Reviews. Just after a presentation from one of the groups, I even remember the Chief Engineer turning to me and saying, “I’m really glad we have these now. It really helps me see the problems the groups are having that wouldn’t come up with just a conversation with the team.” I’ve really found the design reviews as not just a great way to figure out what isn’t working, but what is working well too. The plan is to keep reports in binders for future reference so that down the road, everyone can continue to look back and see the strengths and weaknesses with different methods. When it comes to engineering, it never hurts to have a second pair of eyes.

Jordan Stine

Jordan is the current president of the ERFSEDS at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and an undergraduate in Aerospace Engineering.

Founded in 1992, The Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers and Developers Society is dedicated to providing hands-on experience in space exploration and related topics for students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

To learn more about ERFSEDS click here.

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