Development of a design methodology and application to advance the field of highly mobile robotics
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Developing innovative ideas as part of engineering design can be limited by the field of technology and the engineer's or design team's understanding of the field. Without sufficient understanding of an emerging technical field, ideation may be hampered by reinventing the proverbial wheel or by a lack of knowledge of the underlying physical principles and state of technology. The research presented here seeks to develop a tool and methodology intended to strengthen a designer’s or design team’s understanding of a field and relevant technologies in order to foster creative and innovative solutions. The presented inductive methodology consists of conducting a thorough review of existing relevant developing or commercially available technologies in order to obtain characteristic property data to be used as a basis of understanding. Analysis of the plotted data may lead to understanding existing trends, identifying voids where opportunities exist to expand the design space and general insights into the field. The effectiveness of using empirical data to look for innovation is investigated in the domain of highly mobile robots. Senior cadets from USAFA and UT Austin perform concept generation sessions before and after utilizing the proposed methodology to validate the effectiveness of the approach. The study at UT Austin validates the proposed methodology by measuring the quantity, quality, and novelty of the concepts generated before and after exposure to the methodology. These experiments demonstrate that state-of-technology design tools provide an effective foundation and platform for designers to generate a larger quantity of concepts. To further investigate the effectiveness of the proposed methodology, it is used to develop a device within the field of highly mobile robotics. There exist applications of highly mobile robots which require innovative solutions with regard to overcoming obstacles, payload capacity, energy storage and minimizing power requirements. The methodology allows for the development of innovative concepts, and the embodiment and manufacture of a particular solution. The mechanical design solutions to multiple design challenges are presented, and the prototyped device proves capable of expanding the existing design space in terms of its performance with respect to the metrics mentioned above.