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Introducing mechanical engineering students to human-centred design

Product designer crouched down beside student, socially distanced, wearing masks

We have been introducing third-year students at the University of Bath to the human-centred design method through a series of seminars and a design challenge.

The importance of considering disabled people when designing products

At Designability, we believe it is so important to follow the principles of human-centred design. This is when we work with people when designing products in order to understand how to make them as inclusive and accessible as possible.

This month we have been introducing third-year Mechanical Engineering students at the University of Bath to the human-centred design method through a series of seminars and a design challenge.

Students have been experiencing first-hand the importance of considering disabled people when designing products. Throughout the module, students have been working in groups of four to design a product that solves a problem for their “user” (one of four disabled volunteers who support us on the module).

The design brief this year is:

Consider an everyday activity (e.g. gardening, cooking and washing) which your “user” carries out at home. How might we enhance the experience of carrying out this daily activity through the design of a handheld product?

Connecting with volunteers remotely to fulfil the brief

Students on the module usually meet their volunteer in person but, this year, they have been working with them over a series of video calls. The meetings comprise of:

Getting to know you: Students begin by meeting and speaking to their volunteer to find out more about them, their experiences and how their disability impacts on your day-to-day life.

Concept Design Review: Students share their design ideas with their volunteer to understand how well their ideas meet their needs and to help decide which design they should take forward to develop.

Final Design and Prototype Review: Students present their final design and prototype to their volunteer for review.

This is the 4th year that we have run this module and the first year that we have had to deliver seminars remotely. Fortunately, as some of the elements of our seminars are interactive (mini design challenges), we have been able to deliver seminars live to students so we can provide feedback and answer questions as we go.

We are excited to see what the students come up with!

Picture: Jess, our Industrial Designer and Researcher, provides feedback to a group who are exploring through prototyping how they could support their volunteer (who is a wheelchair user) to put their trousers on.