Science, Maths & Technology

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An introduction to design engineering

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# 4.2 Practical variation

One way to approach a design problem is to use your own knowledge and experience. You may not be a furniture, automotive or aeroplane designer but you probably have considerable experience of sitting down! Making use of this personal knowledge might seem trivial, but it is the start of all creative problem solving. The key is turning this personal knowledge into information you can use in any design process.

## Activity 7 Seat and desk height

Timing: Allow 20 minutes to complete this activity

Measure the height from the floor to the seat and the desk or table where you study.

Make your measurements in millimetres and note them down somewhere for use in the next activity. Even if you don’t usually study at a desk or table, find a place like this that you can use for this activity (and the next one).

Calculate the difference between these two heights in mm.

### Discussion

For example, a typical desk might be 758 mm above the floor, and the seat 540 mm above the floor.

The difference between these two heights is 758 mm − 540 mm = 218 mm.

What you have done in Activity 7 is to measure something that already exists. You have an existing desk and you have given a value to a property of it. Now, when you talk to other people about your desk you’ll be able to state the height in a way that they will understand.

Before you take this measured height as the perfect desk height, it is worth checking this assumption. Once again you will use a practical method to do this.

## Activity 8 Experimenting with desk heights

Timing: Allow 20 minutes to complete this activity

Adjust the height of your desktop by using accessible materials you have around you. For example, you could use a flat surface like a tray propped up on books, or a folder with some DVD cases underneath it. What you are looking for is some way to quickly and easily adjust a stable surface that you are able to use. If you have quite a high desk, then you might want to find a lower one, such as a table, to start the activity.

Try working on your desk at different heights, and note down how it feels to work at each height. (Is it more or less comfortable than the original height?) Once you have found a height that feels comfortable, take a note of the difference in height from what you were using previously.

Take a few pictures of your adjusted desktop. A discussion of this activity will follow in the main text – but don’t read on until you have tried it.

### Discussion

I used DVD cases to prop up a folder. This did actually change the way I wrote notes quite dramatically. At a higher height (about 3 DVD boxes) it felt a lot more comfortable.

Higher than this and it felt a bit strange – not comfortable for my shoulders and arms.

Here’s a picture of the notes I took: