Perceptions of Strength in Design
During the summer of 2021, I conducted paid research in Stanford Professor Erin MacDonald's IRIS Lab as part of the Stanford Undergraduate Research Institute in Mechanical Engineering. My time in the lab saw me work on a variety of projects, the last of which was an investigation into the way people perceive safety and strength.
I was inspired to conduct a design study, entitled Perceptions of Strength, as I learned more about topological optimization and the processes by which structures can be strengthened. Some of these processes seemed intuitive, others magical. Thus, in this study, I sought to determine whether human intuition was a qualified tool for assessing the strength of simple, planar structures since it doesn’t matter how strong a structure is if its intended user does not trust it enough to use it.
For each of four simple cases in which there was a force being applied to a fixed body, I designed three structures, each of which weighed approximately the same and took the same forces and had the same fixed joints. For each case, one structure was designed using Fusion 360’s topological optimization tool to find an optimal design. Then, two other structures were designed with intentional flaws and weaknesses that would yield a significantly lower safety factor.
As seen in the figure above, I generated three designs for each case: “Squish”, “Bridge”, “Hook”, and “Stretch”. The cases are ordered here from least to most strong, labeled A to C. To assess perceptions of strength, survey participants were showed the three structures within each case and asked to select the one they believed to be the least likely to break.
My research is summarized in the Presentation Poster referenced in the button below.