Class of 2019
Major: Mechanical Engineering
The summer before his senior year, Kyle Ward interned in Canton, Mississippi at the Nissan, North America manufacturing plant. He divided his time between several projects, but one in particular stood out among the others. An assembly line project married together his passions for design and creativity with classroom experiences in a meaningful way.
Ward was asked by his manager to implement ergonomic improvements on the manufacturing line. In one of his Vanderbilt courses, How to Make (Almost) Anything (ME 3890), taught by Professor Kevin Galloway, Ward learned about human-centered design thinking and its practical application in real world applications. Design thinking utilizes a process that helps to solve complex, real-world problems, and aids in developing critical thinking skills. Because the assembly line involved identifiable people, Ward was able to apply human-centered design concepts to develop a solution. Along with technical skills learned in engineering classes and a lifetime of experience working with his hands, Ward applied his knowledge of human-centered design to aid in the development of his project.
Ward interviewed the manufacturing line technicians, sketched ideas during his early design phases, and fabricated several iterations of a prototype before implementing the final version. His first step was to ask the technicians questions regarding the current design. Their perspective on the situation was vital to Ward’s ability to develop a workable solution. “Throughout the design process,” Ward says, “I asked for critique from the technicians and the engineers to help guide me to a final version that everyone was happy with and proud of.” In the end, a large variety of materials were used in prototyping and on the final fix. “I was required to apply my knowledge of materials science and skills with fabrication.” With the confidence and knowledge learned in Professor Galloway’s class, the process was very efficient and led to a lasting solution. Ward was truly in the driver’s seat on this project; he was responsible for the entire process from the first interview to the final design.