Seven Axioms of Good Engineering — A Case Study Course: Learning From Failure (APPEL-SAGE)
This course is for NASA engineers and project managers who are interested in understanding the role of historical case studies and engineering failures in critical thinking and good engineering design processes, and learning how to avoid classic design errors.
This course takes a reflective look at numerous case studies, both from within NASA and the outside world, to discover where the root causes of most failures reside. After a brief introduction to design, participants investigate various failure examples, then lead themselves to the discovery and on-the-job application of axioms that bring a non-technical, yet crucial, sense of wisdom to the engineering design and project management decision-making processes.
This three-day course presents seven key concepts for axiomatic design, including:
- avoiding a selective use of historical design data;
- extrapolating existing data into unknown regions of the design space only with extreme caution;
- understanding the design's sensitivity and robustness;
- always testing against physicality;
- guarding against unanticipated loads and/or failure modes;
- avoiding highly coupled system unless a strong benefit is shown; and
- ensuring human understanding of how the system works.
Participants discuss historical case studies on failure, including:
- GE refrigerator rotary compressor failure;
- Space Shuttle Columbia accident;
- Apollo liquid oxygen (LOx) tank;
- Pioneer 10 spacecraft;
- Recurring mistakes in suspension bridge design;
- Hubble Space Telescope primary mirror;
- U.S. Navy's Mark 14 magnetic exploder malfunction;
- Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse;
- Ocean Ranger sinking; and
- The Three-Mile Island partial meltdown.
Participants also are expected to create design corollaries and a case study based on their own personal experiences, and then present their engineering design cases to the class, highlighting pertinent engineering axioms.
Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:
- Recognize the value of case studies in critical thinking through the extraction of key decision-making aspects associated with engineering processes.
- Define and explain the seven design engineering axioms, and recognize ways that classic errors occur and ways to avoid them.
- Employ non-analytical insight as part of the design process.
- Transform design data into design knowledge.
- Practice researching and incorporating lessons learned into everyday design processes.
- Evaluate one's own successful and failed design projects to create case studies that highlight and share good and bad engineering practices.
Competencies and Technical Areas Addressed
- Seven key engineering design principles and classic design errors
- Critical thinking, technical decision making, and engineering best practices
- Nonanalytical aspects of design
- Practice of researching case studies and lessons learned in everyday design processes
- The American Council on Education (ACE) has recommended that 1 transferable graduate-level credit be awarded for the successful completion of this course.
- This course is registered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) for 24 Professional Development Units (PDUs). PMI Course ID: SAGE33