Design your world, design your life

Dr. Spencer Magleby began his forum address on Thursday by looking down at his phone and remarking, “Ah, I’ve just received a ‘good luck’ text from my daughter.” It was the perfect way to launch his discussion of our technological world, how it was designed and how we can apply the design process to our own lives.

The audience – full of engineers and non-engineers alike – was encouraged to put on their designing glasses and become Dr. Magleby’s “engineering buddies” for the duration of the forum.

Dr. Magleby, associate dean of the BYU Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, began designing things as a child. His love for engineering began with Tinker Toys and Legos. Now he has designed fighter jets, fuel injectors, prosthetics and much more.

“I wanted to design things to change the world,” Dr. Magleby said.

For his forum address, Dr. Magleby emphasized how engineers can change the world by developing new technologies. He pointed out that we are surrounded by a technological world. This world includes many positive things – such as using imaging technology in hospitals, being able to travel to New York City in a matter of hours, enjoying instant communication with loved ones and being able to buy a taco for less than a dollar. However, the technology around us can also be an annoyance.

“We are completely dependent on it. We love it and it annoys us.” Dr. Magleby said. “This world of annoyances and wonders is the cumulative work of design engineering … regardless of what you think of the technological world we have, you can expect we’ll see more of it in the future.”

The design engineering process involves the following steps: (a) understanding the need/objective, (b) creating solution concepts, (c) evaluating and selecting the best concepts, (d) developing the design, (e) predicting performance and (f) testing and refining the design.

Dr. Magleby shared examples of BYU students and faculty who have used this process to develop amazing products. He talked about BYU’s supermileage vehicle, an innovative spinal replacement disc to treat lower back pain and a creative new kind of prescription bottle that only dispenses medicine one dose at a time (decreasing the likelihood of prescription drug abuse and overdose).

“The technological world of tomorrow is going to be an amazing place.”

This design process is not only for engineers, however. Dr. Magleby ended his address by talking about how individuals can use this same process to design their lives. He quoted Joseph Smith who said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.”

In order to design a happy life, Dr. Magleby provided a revised design process that could be applied to any life plans. Although some of the steps are different, the principles are the same. Students can begin by setting an objective, considering alternative approaches, selecting the best option and continually refining it. A key element to designing one’s life is seeking inspiration and the Lord’s help in choosing the best course of action.

Students at the forum were inspired by the examples Dr. Magleby shared.

“I liked learning about all the tidbits of what students have done,” said freshman Zach Wilson. “I like the idea that we can work through that process to better our own lives, too.”

Although many in attendance were not engineering majors, they nevertheless enjoyed the chance to learn about the design process and take away something for their own lives.

“He really related it to us in the end,” said Kally Macdonald, a Family and Consumer Science major.

Dr. Magleby received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin and his BS and MS degrees from BYU. He has been teaching mechanical engineering classes at BYU since 1989 and was the founder of the nationally recognized Capstone program at BYU. He was appointed associate dean in 2005.

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