Revamping Delta Design for introductory mechanics

Michelle Marie Grau, Sheri Sheppard, Samantha Brunhaver

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations


The Delta Design game was developed by MIT Professor Louis Bucciarelli for college-level engineering education. The game's main goal is to demonstrate that designing in teams is as much a social process as it is a technical one, and that compromise is a key part of creating a successful design. To play the game, four students, each with a different role, form a design team and are tasked with developing a structure that meets the different sets of constraints posed by each role. The four roles are the structural engineer, thermal engineer, project manager, and architect. Each team must design a residence in an imaginary world which they build with red and blue triangles on a diamond grid. The red and blue tiles mean different things to each player. For example, the thermal engineer sees the red triangles as heat-producing elements, while the project manager sees them as a representation of cost. Each player also has different constraints that they are trying to optimize, e.g. the structural engineer calculates moments and safety factors to make sure the design is safe, the project manager keeps track of cost and time, and the architect makes sure that the end result is aesthetically pleasing to the future inhabitants. It is a complex game, requiring the students to be trained in their roles beforehand, and takes at least three hours to complete. In addition, instructors can make the game more or less challenging by changing the values of certain constraints such as the cost or by adding complexities like sudden shifts in gravity. We redesigned the Delta Design game for a sophomore-level solid mechanics course. The goals of this redesign were to emphasize the role of solid mechanics in the design process and reinforce concepts taught in the class. We also sought to make the game shorter so that it could be played in a class period and to maintain the focus on teamwork. Examples of the modifications include removing the positions that were unrelated to the course (e.g., the thermal engineer and the architect) as well as adding design constraints to the two remaining roles to keep the nature of the game complex. The redesigned game was piloted in the summer and fall of 2011 with nine students, most of whom had recently graduated from or were currently enrolled in an Introduction to Solid Mechanics course at Stanford University. In this paper, we fully describe our decision-making process to redesign the game as well as the actual design changes. We also summarize the feedback we received during the pilot games and describe our next steps in terms of further changes. Ultimately, we hope that the game can be used to increase students' engagement and conceptual understanding in learning solid mechanics, and to help students draw connections between the course material and real-world applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
ISBN (Print)9780878232413
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2012Jun 13 2012


Other119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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