Selling Technology: The Success and Failure of Technological Things (HONR 219C)

University of Maryland, Department of Mechanical Engineering

[Description] | [Outline]


Our world churns out new high-tech products at an astounding rate.  But how are ideas turned into products, and what are the design and societal considerations that determine the success of those products?  The technology consuming public often has little or no view into the global ramifications of the products they are using or the technologies embedded within them.  Technology providers are very good at grasping the consuming public’s whims and providing products that appear to fulfill what consumer’s desire.  But be careful what you ask for, it may not be what you really wanted, and there are always unintended consequences of technology that find their way back to impacting us all.  

Technologically focused products ranging from cell phones to airplanes will be studied in this course.  Technology will be viewed from the standpoints of: ergonomics, social and environmental responsibility, practicality, cost, reliability, and other factors that contribute to the success, market acceptance, and lifecycle ramifications of a product.  Specifically, we will study products and technology via reverse engineering (“product archeology”).  We will address the real the costs (both manufacturing and lifecycle) of technology-focused products and address technology risk and reliability.  We will explore how technologies and approaches meant to address public concerns over the safety and environment may, in some cases, be paradoxes that represent shifting problems to other places or times.  Other topics that will be discussed include: aging system problems, technology obsolescence, counterfeit technology, failure of groups to retain technology, and information modeling.  The goal of this course is not to advocate for or rail against particular technologies or products, but to learn to ask important questions and think deeper than the claims made by product marketing.

Outline (the following was the Spring 2008 Lecture Schedule)

January 28, 2008 – Course Introduction

January 30, 2008 – Innovation

February 4, 2008 – Innovation and Economic Progress (Myra Torres)

February 6, 2008 – Innovation and Economic Progress (Myra Torres)

February 11, 2008 – Incentives, Slide Rule Letter Exercise

February 13, 2008 – NO CLASS (class cancelled)

February 18, 2008 – Product Definition

February 20, 2008 – Product Definition, Requirements and Specs, Information Modeling

February 25, 2008 – Information Modeling

February 27, 2008 – Abstraction Levels

March 3, 2008 – Design Introduction

March 5, 2008 – Bioinspired Design (Ed Magrab)

March 10, 2008 – Design Introduction, students present bad design homework

March 12, 2008 – Variety and Simplicity, Project discussion (watch Connections video)

March 17, 2008 – NO CLASS (spring break)

March 19, 2008 – NO CLASS (spring break)

March 24, 2008 - Variety and Simplicity

March 26, 2008 – Decisions and Optimization (Shapour Azarm)

March 31, 2008 – Things Cost Money – Manufacturing Cost

April 2, 2008 – Things Cost Money – Manufacturing Cost, Things Cost Money – Life Cycle Cost

April 7, 2008 – Things Cost Money – Life Cycle Cost

April 9, 2008 – Sustainment, Reliability

April 14, 2008 – Reliability, Paper Clip Bending Results

April 16, 2008 – Reliability, Spares and Availability

April 21, 2008 – Obsolescence

April 23, 2008 – Counterfeit (Michael Pecht)

April 28, 2008 – Product Liability (Vince Brannigan)

April 30, 2008 – Larry Lessig Video, Warranty

May 5, 2008 – Life Cycle Assessment

May 7, 2008 – Life Cycle Assessment

May 12, 2008 – Prioritization of Solutions, Course Evaluation

Peter Sandborn
University of Maryland
Last Updated: December 21, 2008
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