The Cube of Knowledge project is the first assignment in the bioomedical engineering fabrication and design course. Students are exposed to concepts of engineering design and how critical vs. non-critical feature size/location, etc., are conveyed from the designer to the fabricator. Each team creates the drawing and fabricates their own side of the cube. Once all sides are made, they bring them to class and we see if six different teams have created their individual parts such that they all can fit together and form a six-sided, large-scale dice cube.
The concept of conveying — from the engineer's desktop to the fabrication shop — which design features matter more than others is a challenge that every engineer faces. Because I hadn't absorbed this lesson in my own undergraduate career, one of my first designs in the "real world" was quoted at more than $500 — when in reality it was a less-than-$50 part. Had I not had the opportunity to clarify this design with the fabrication shop, not just a lot of money, but also a lot of time would have been wasted creating an unnecessarily precise component. Students learn that lesson in this project.
After this project, students move on to a Syringe of Power project, which exposes them not only to a different manufacturing technique, but also to a more open-ended design experience. One design team selects the raw materials and designs the piston of a syringe, while the other team selects raw materials and designs the outside syringe housing.
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