Author: Tanaya Joshi

Bridging the Gap Between Science and Design: Biologically Inspired Design

Being from a very different background than my fellow bloggers, it can be a challenge to find a topic to write about. I mean, I’m an Industrial Design major and that’s pretty far from science and labs and stuff, right? WRONG!

A couple weeks ago, my studio mates and I were assigned a new project: To make a biologically inspired lamp with an alternate power source. Before I tell you more, let me distinguish between biologically inspired design and design based on biomimicry. The latter is a more straightforward approach. For example, I like the shape of a honeycomb and would like to make a light that mimics it. Biologically inspired design, on the other hand, digs deeper and looks to solve a problem. For example, a light that draws biological inspiration from honeycomb might use the honeycomb as a charging station for lights for, say, students studying in the library. They would come get a task light for their desk from the honeycomb and return it to recharge when done.

The research for our project began with help of an expert from the Center for Biologically Inspired Design. He discussed numerous types of inspiration that exist in nature and it wasn’t until then that I realized how much design does and can borrow from science. For example, an Aerospace Engineer would never think to put ridges on a windmill blade, but after assessing the fins of whales, designers, scientists and engineers found that a blade with ridges would produce more lift and work better at steeper angles without stalling.

With biologically inspired design, the use of science is being explored in numerous capacities in the field of Industrial Design. This interdisciplinary study is an especially successful approach because it has an advantage of being based on an existing solution. Furthermore, the fact that it bridges disciplines gives not only a larger database of information to borrow from, but also the flexibility to gain the best of both worlds. Oftentimes, our areas of study can get cornered off, but by bridging two disciplines like science and design, a world of possibilities is open.

As we progress in the areas of engineering, science, and design, we are getting more and more interdisciplinary. For example, engineers, designers, and scientists merged to better understand flight of the herring gull. The result was Smart Bird, which “can start, fly and land autonomously – with no additional drive mechanism.” This technology fuels ideas to enhance hybrid drive technology while optimizing energy consumption. Future generations, especially, will be faced with the challenge of having to borrow heavily from natural resources. It is in our benefit, then, that we explore fields outside our area of expertise and integrate them with ours to solve these complex problems that do and will arise. After all, it is only for so long that we can rely on the techniques of traditional disciplines to solve current issues.

 

Tanaya Joshi is back for round  2 at Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue a Masters in Industrial Design. Her previous degree was a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering. She is is looking to bridge the gap between engineering and art through Industrial Design and hopes to focus on using design as a tool to enhance feasibility in products.

 

Category: The Student Blog | 8 Comments

Building a Network: Tips for Non-Engineering Majors

The fall of each school year brings hundreds of companies and thousands of students to the annual career fair. Our campus floods with well-dressed students and alumni with leather portfolios and ambitions, looking for the next big step, be it an internship or a job. Georgia Tech, being an engineering school, draws some of the biggest corporations out there. But what does all this mean to a non-engineer?

I’ve been going to the career fair since my second year of undergrad, when I was an Aerospace Engineering major. There were a lot of companies I could talk to, and I even approached a few companies that weren’t listed under my major. However, when I returned to the fair later as a master’s student in Industrial Design, I found that many of the big name companies were no longer interested in me because I wasn’t doing engineering. Between the two days of career fair, I found a total of two companies who I saw potential opportunities with. It was hard to believe how much more difficult networking had become all of a sudden. I learned, however, that networking is a skill; there is a method to this madness.

  1. The first thing to remember when you’re going to look for research or job opportunities is to know what you want. Don’t waste time contacting every lab in your school or every company who hires your major; look at what you’re interested in and narrow it down to three. The best way to find this is to go online and do your homework. Read what the position is, ask questions about what your responsibilities will be, and if you know friends who’ve worked/researched there before, ask them to see if your findings line up with the reality.
  2. Second, be persistent! Once you make a contact, keep in touch. Don’t harass him/her, but check in and say hello every month or so. Update him/her on your educational career and get updates on their credentials. It’s okay to even ask for advice on next career steps. There are very few people who bother following up once they apply online. Yes, career fairs can be frustrating when you hear “apply online” a million times, but that’s how companies know that you’re really interested!
  3. Third, build a strong network. Keep in touch with professors whose classes you’ve taken, even after the course is complete; stay in contact with colleagues and bosses from summer internships or research positions. I still catch up with my engineering professors from the first few years of undergrad and with my coworkers from my last job. I got 3 phenomenal recommendations for my graduate school by simply keeping in touch. The network you build by having a relationship and keeping in touch is far more valuable than something that will come out of one email.
  4. Finally, remember to be yourself! Yes, the job or internship has to be something you like, but it has to go both ways. If you stay true to yourself, you’ll end up at a job or internship where you’ll get along and blend in well with the team. Yes, there are right and wrong answers in the interview, but the best answers are the real ones.

Are there more networking tips that have worked for you? Please share them with us through the comment box!

 

Tanaya Joshi is a masters student in Industrial Design at Georgia Institute of Technology. Her previous degree is a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. She is is looking to bridge the gap between engineering and art through Industrial Design and hopes to focus on using design as a tool to enhance feasibility in products.

 

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