The core pedagogy of ME310 PORTO is the Stanford Design Innovation Process that has fueled much of the entrepreneurial culture in the Silicon Valley. At the heart of the process is the notion that in order to innovate, one must understand the needs of the user and the context surrounding the design.
Unlike most other engineering design courses, ME310 PORTO requires the students to get out into the field and interview users to understand people’s values as well as thoroughly benchmark existing products and technologies. By understanding the past and present, the students are able to design what the future can be.
The design process in ME310 PORTO, unlike many other design and development processes, is cyclical. By going through the process multiple times, not only does it maximize student learning, it maximizes project learning and the quality and depth of user insight for the student teams. The iterative nature assures that teams are not stuck on one idea for too long and that ideas are being continuously validated with end users through rapid prototyping and testing.
“Fail early and fail often so you can succeed sooner,” is one of the key mantras for ME310’ers.
Prototypes: Prototypes are the main vehicle of innovation in ME310 PORTO, starting from the roughest prototypes in the fall to the refined prototypes in the spring. Throughout the course, students create numerous prototypes to articulate their vision and test their design assumptions. Through iterative prototyping, broad project statements are refined into concrete concepts, which are demonstrated through the final, fully functional proof-of-concept prototype.
Teams pour significant effort into documenting their learnings along the way. For each prototype created and tested to failure, there is significant learnings that not only influence the final innovation the teams create, but also provide the corporate partners with a valuable body of knowledge from which to extend the ME310 PORTO team efforts into new innovation projects. Every ten weeks, the design teams reflect and create a major design document for delivery to their corporate partners.
One of the largest challenges is driving innovation is effectively sharing the team’s vision of the future. Three times during the project, the student teams deliver formal presentations to the design community, including the corporate partners. Through these presentations, teams communicate the highlights of their innovation efforts and demonstrate the best of their prototyping efforts as the teams paint a compelling view of where their project support the corporate partner needs.