Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 5381-5388
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Learning by doing is an efficient way to teach design students intuitive and durable knowledge about materials. By experimenting and experiencing materials, students get a prospective on the properties of the materials they use and are able to learn which possibilities are given by them. Having an up-to-date knowledge of materials, from technical and engineering properties to expressive-sensorial perceptions is essential for designers to produce an aware design and exploit the potentials and limits of materials. In this perspective, the workshop “SMArtDesign” focused the attention on the application of Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) in design concepts. The workshop has been conducted in collaboration with a leader in the SMA industry and it was dedicated to students of the Product Design course at the School of Design of the Politecnico di Milano.

SMAs are stimuli-responsive materials, in the sense that they are able to change shape when heated. More precisely, they are able either to return to a preset shape when they are heated over their transition temperature. This property makes SMAs particularly interesting for designers, since it will allow them to design new kinds of interactions between users and products. Nevertheless, it also brings some difficulties in finding a way to use them. The strategy of learning by doing can be very effective here, to teach materials and to help designers implementing SMAs in their projects.

During the workshop, students get the opportunity to study and develop a concept using SMAs. The workshop last for five days, with a launch presentation taking place the week before. The first step of the workshop consisted of a presentation of the SMAs and their properties, followed by examples of applications. The focus has been on applications in the automotive, ITC, home-appliances, lighting, rehabilitation, sports, security, and jewelry fields. After this presentation, groups of four students were asked to choose one of the previous application fields, to analyze it and research other existing applications of SMAs. Then they have developed a concept of a product using SMAs. They presented briefly some propositions of concepts on the third day, and then developed one of them more in detail, presenting the result during the last day of the workshop.

The participation of the industry leader has allowed a good communication between the future designers and the materials supplier, and offered the possibility for the students to get full information about SMAs, since they had at their disposition samples to experiment with, and technical information and support to implement the SMAs in an efficient way. This paper presents the results of the workshop. The aim of this study was to allow the students to get a hand-on appropriation of shape memory alloys and of their possible uses.
Workshop, shape memory alloys, learning by doing, design and engineering.