Civil and Environmental Engineering 350

Introduction to Engineering Design


“Engineering is the interface between imagination and reality.”

                                     – John W. Norton, Jr.




Instructor:        John Norton


Class Hours:   <the class will meet when I become a professor!>


Textbooks:      Eugene S. Ferguson, “Engineering and the Mind’s Eye,” The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992.


                        Samuel C. Florman, “The Civilized Engineer,” St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1987.


                        Henry Petroski, “To Engineer is Human,” St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1985.


                        John McPhee, “The Control of Nature,” The Noonday Press, New York, 1989.


Goals:             To introduce the student to the concepts of engineering design, the design process, stakeholder analysis, engineering compromise.


Introduction:    This course is designed to introduce the student to the principles of a successful design. Successful designs are those that are cost-effective, achievable (which means buildable, possible, doable etc.), and which meet the desired objectives, all while minimizing the compromises necessary to satisfy all of the stakeholders. Structures, systems, processes can all be designed by engineers through the course of their career. This course will help guide the student towards identifying and understanding all of the facets of a successful design.


Objectives:      This course is designed to introduce the student to the method and madness of successful design. By the end of the course, the student should be able to:


                        * identify the driving needs of a design

                        * identify impending phases of design

                        * identify potential components of a design

                        * isolate the stakeholders of a design

                        * classify and explain the likely failure modes of a design

                        * understand potential compromises and limitations of a design

                        * communicate the design specifics to the different stakeholders

                        * guide and critique the design process

                        * determine the design deliverables

                        * evaluate and measure the success of a built design







Intro to design




What can be designed?

McPhee – cool the rock

Quiz – on reading


Design stages – conceptual, preliminary, detailed design

Florman – Cpt. 2

Paper 1 – what can be designed? Story of an unconventional design


1st group project – critique a public transportation system (form groups)




Whose design? – stakeholders

Ferguson – Chp. 3



Design for society – subways, buildings in Hong Kong, pretty retaining walls

McFee – hold the dirt


Quiz – public trans systems


Boundary value problem – needs of a design

Petroski – Cpts 1,3


Paper 2 – Who matters? Story of the new bridge


Limit states, limiting criteria




Design review, design codes

Florman – Cpt. 12



GROUP PRESENTATIONS – transportation system


1st group project


2nd group project – evaluate wastewater treatment options (form new groups)

Florman – Cpt. 15



Failures – do failures mean bad design?

Petroski – Chp 8

Florman – Cpt. 17







Failures of subdivisions: system failure

McPhee – channel the water



Failures – Firth of Forth bridge: cost

Ferguson – Chp. 7



Enough of failures – how to succeed!


Paper 3 – was the Challenger disaster an engineering failure?


GROUP PRESENTATIONS – wastewater treatment options


2nd group project


3rd group project – city infrastructure development


Quiz – failures


What to consider when you design?

Florman -



Engineering as a series of compromise




How do you design something that has already been built? Building in the city

Petroski – Chp. 7

Paper 4 – What engineering challenges do cities have to manage?


Communicating a design – specs and plans

Ferguson – Chp. 5



GROUP PRESENTATIONS –city infrastructure development


3rd group project


Design deliverables – how a design gets turned into reality




Measure the success of a built design

Florman Cpt. 16



Design reliability




More design reliability


Quiz  – reliability


Course summary

Petroski – 17






Course Grading


                        Three group projects and presentations

                                    Presentation                             5%

                                    Class handout                          5%

                                    Group formation letter 5%

                                                            Each project    15%                                         Total    45%


                        Quizzes – 4 to 6 for semester                                                              Total    15%


                        Tests, each one comprehensive          

Midterm                                  10%

Final                                        10%                                         Total    20%


Class papeletts (very short papers!)

            Paper 1 – unconventional        5%

            Paper 2 – bridge                      5%

            Paper 3 – Challenger               5%

            Paper 4 – city engineering       5%                                           Total    20%




Straight scale grading                          A         >92

                                                B         >80

                                                C         >65

                                                D         >50


Group projects

Each group project team will be randomly assigned, and new groups will be formed for each project. Each presentation will be performed using a PowerPoint slide presentation format. The class presentation will be 8 minutes long, teams must email their presentation to me 1 day prior to class. Each team must also prepare a 1-2 page handout to accompany their presentation, which must be passed out to the class. Finally, each team must turn in the next class AFTER their talk a 2 page paper detailing what they did to establish the working of their group, how they settled on a topic, and how they conducted their team design process.


Class papeletts (very short papers)

These are 1 page papers on various design subjects. Each paper can be one page maximum length. The paper needs to be clear, direct, and to the point. Only one page will be graded, the paper must be computer-typed.




Quizzes – closed book

Tests – open books/notes