:: Specific Design Brief
Practical Action 8:
Systems and Control Design
exam boards require that students know about such topics related to systems and
Programmable control devices
Principles and techniques of testing applied to system design
Industrial and commercial practice - manufacturing systems
Industrial and commercial practice - forms of energy and impact on design, manufacturing and the environment
Market-pull and technology-push
New technologies including CAD/CAM, CIS, CIM
There are three possible strategies for finding worthwhile design contexts
In any the following sectors sustainability can be introduced by designing a more
Occupational therapy/ health related products
Many people need some kind of equipment to make life better for them. There are
opportunities for linking with the OT department of heath service providers,
special needs schools, old peoples homes and the like, to find a client and/
who need a specialised device. N.B. Often the need is immediate
and the end-user might be frustrated if the whole project lasts for months and
Organic horticulture / farming
As more people wish to buy organically produced foods from local suppliers, the
number of organic farms and nurseries is increasing. Usually these have a strong bias
towards sustainability. Many run on low budgets. There are always needs for
automated devices for germination, irrigation, temperature and humidity control.
A device to simulate an environment (in which temperature, humidity, sunlight
are controlled) could be useful for experimental purposes. A local garden nursery or
farm might well provide a design brief.
Leisure boating and commercial fishing
Boats away from harbour or moorings do not have access to mains electricity.
However, there is a range of safety equipment on board that must be reliable in all conditions.
Domestic equipment must be small, easy to stow, energy efficient and safe.
Commercial fishers need to sort and clean fish. Are there any unmet needs or
products used in boats that could be more sustainable with the right sort of
control systems in place?
Dealing with waste
As everyone becomes more conscious of the need to conserve and recycle, there is
a growing demand for products such as can crushers, methods of sorting plastics,
systems for sorting waste in large institutions etc. Some of these might lend
themselves to an automated system. Are there any local institutions or companies
that might be able to supply a design brief?
Security / warning devices
Many GCSE projects involve some sort of detector with an audible or visible
output, such as locks or alarms. Are there possible
industrial applications such as a detector for a hod / lorry / silo to show
how full it is, security devices for people with impaired sight or mobility? Are
there warning devices needed on building sites or farms both areas that suffer
a high proportion of industrial accidents? Are there other needs in the
construction industries e.g. a smart system for logging / controlling use of
Strategy 2 a technology-push approach
Many electronics students at GCSE develop products that are inappropriate in an
age where PCs, smart cards, USB memory sticks etc. are readily available.
the student identify a product which currently relies on manufactured circuits, which would be more sustainable if these
modern technologies are used?
there possibilities for redesigning systems that use renewable energy rather than
conventional oil / gas fired electricity generation?
there new materials (e.g. smart materials) that open up possibilities of more
sustainable products and systems?
anything be done in the area of smart food storage, by which items in the fridge
which are approaching their use by date can identify themselves to the cook
(possibly with automated recipe selection)?
starting point here would be some sort of product analysis, using a tool, such as
the Eco-indicator or Design Abacus, and then generating a brief using the
emerging areas for improvement.
Strategy 3 piggy-backing
Some of the existing SDA design contexts might lend themselves to an outcome
that is challenging for an A level Systems and Control (S&C) student.
Alternatively, there is no reason why another student should not be the client
for an S&C student. For example, the Low Impact Building contexts suggest
daylight maximising, waste minimisation and an energy efficient house. These
suggest product design outcomes. But the students might need some sort of
instrumentation and/or data logging system to test the effectiveness of their
designs. The student who developed classroom furniture made from recycled
cardboard packaging for Zimbabwean schools might have benefited from a device to
simulate classroom use, or a strain gauge to identify weak areas. Developing
such an automated or semi-automated testing device would be an excellent S&C
project. Within the SDA network of schools there is a real opportunity for S&C
students to get design briefs from other students.
If you decide
to work on this design brief, don't forget to consider the issues of
sustainability in the different phases of your designing and making.
here to access Sustain-a-balls