VIRTUAL PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT WITHIN A FOURTH YEAR OPTION IN THE MECHANICAL ENGINEERING CURRICULUM
The Mechanical Engineering Department of École Polytechnique after experimenting for a number of years with a virtual environment option in the Aerospace Master Program, created a new design option in the fourth year of the Mechanical Engineering program. This option is built around a project carried out by a large team working over two semesters where a digital product definition including Product Data Management and Manufacturing Process Management technologies are currently used to foster a concurrent product development process. This orientation contains three courses and the project. A series of laboratory sessions have been developed in each course in order to familiarise the students with the virtual environment and also the various types of analysis that they will have to perform on the product being developed. Professors teaching the three courses participate in the project definition and the project assessment. This approach reinforces the various subjects’ knowledge and integrates it into a practical realm close to an industrial environment. The project assessment includes four reviews. A requirements review and a conceptual review are set in the first semester and a preliminary design review and a critical or detail design review in the second semester. At each review, the students prepare a technical report followed by an oral presentation to a jury composed of four professors of the option, engineers from industry and the professor coordinating the SAE Student Formula. At each review, the students have to evaluate the work completed by each participant to the project. This evaluation impacts on the individual assessment of the project. The vision for this project is to integrate practical building and test experiences by coupling the option courses with an already existing lab course in the last semester. A major part of this lab course is oriented for practical team training (3 - 4 students) on a given number of laboratory experiments. It is planned that some of these labs will be focused on the analysis and testing of sub-assemblies already designed and built during the project of the previous or the current year. This goal is in line with our CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate) initiative which aims to include in the engineering curriculum a number of design, build and test experiences.