Temasek Foundation International Aviation Forum
By Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), SUTD-MIT International Design Centre (IDC), and commissioned by Temasek Foundation International (TFI)
TFI — SUTD STEP Aviation Forum brought together participants from ASEAN countries, India and China. Participants were inspired and empowered through design innovation, critical thinking, and empathy workshops. On the second day of the forum, the participants had the opportunity to visit ST Aerospace to interact, hear and learn from industry leaders on the innovative use of drones and the business of maintenance, repair, and operations of aircraft. Followed by the challenge of building and flying a drone; ended with a friendly competition between the teams and a special closing dinner.
Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It consists of the 4Ds which are Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. For Discover, we paired up and interviewed each other to observe and engage with our partners to identify their needs and opportunities. While Define allowed us to interpret our findings and verify user requirements. Thirdly, Develop helped generate concepts that were focused on user experience. Lastly, Deliver led us to evaluate our prototype with our partners to verify and refine the design solution. The 4Ds can be repeated for multiple rounds until an idea formalized. Through the workshop, I have learned to organize and rationalize my ideas in the future.
The empathy workshop taught us to put ourselves into another person’s shoes to experience what they face in performing a task. The session began by asking us to perform a task with both hands and followed by putting one hand behind while performing the same task. This gave me the opportunity to come up with a user-centric solution to a problem that I may not experience nor fully understand.
Drones zoom around almost everywhere these days. Farmers use them to monitor crops and scientists use them to study hostile locations. Others fly them as a hobby in competitions or just for fun. Drones are complex machines that incorporate frame design, motor assembly, electronic fabrication, signal processing, computer programming and some have a payload mechanism.
With no background in building a drone, we managed to design, build and assemble a drone in three days. After the design workshops, we immediately got to work and came up with a robust and lightweight drone body design that would both fly efficiently and accommodate our payload. Once we completed the design, we laser-cut our drone body and also had the chance to be acquainted with drones flying through a simulator. Then came the competition on the final day, we assembled and started to perform the real flight test. As my team’s drone pilot, I tried my best to control and maneuver the drone with precision. During one of the test flights, I veered off and crash into a barrier, and one of the drone arms broke. Then came the task of rebuilding our drone in time for the competition. That was an experience I will never forget as we had to disassemble and reassemble our drone-like a well-oiled pit crew in just 45 minutes. During the competition, we snagged some points for maneuvering under a few small arches before we had a catastrophic crash and the competition ended soon after as we ran out of time for another round.
The journey not only deepened our understanding and knowledge of engineering with user-centric design and design through empathy. Under a collaborative and hands-on learning environment, we were able to bond, network, and learn together with youth from ASEAN countries, India and China. Shoutout to all participants!