May 22 2020
Entuitive at School: The Queen's Capstone Projects
Entuitive’s commitment to advancing the field of engineering has taken us back to university, where we regularly engage with the engineers of the future to prepare them for the industry post-graduation. In a recent article, we discussed how we’ve been giving guest lectures on parametric modelling, bridging the technology gap between school and work.
Our team was involved in another educational initiative this year, the fourth-year Capstone projects at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. For the 2019-2020 academic year, our team secured two sponsored projects.
Trevor Smith and Nicholas Zeeb challenged their group to use a given 2D surface to determine the optimal bridge span(s) connecting two islands using Grasshopper and Rhinoceros. Once the optimal spans were determined, bridges were assembled and designed further using Karamba3D to arrive at a solution with the lowest steel tonnage. Three bridges were optimized: one clear span, a two-span bridge over an intermediate island, and a three-span solution over two sandbars.
Meanwhile, Hailey Quiquero, Chehong Tsang, and Peter Loudfoot led another group, challenging their students to build a parametric tower within a hypothetical plot in downtown Toronto, optimizing the sightlines of the lakeshore and CN Tower to maximize sale prices. The students came up with a twisting tower scheme in which the floor plate size, number of units and storeys, location on the plot, and level of twist were parametric. They used Galapagos within Grasshopper to optimize those parameters for maximum profits.
Below we talk to our team about these projects, training university students on the various software packages, and how to integrate parametric modelling into the university curriculum.
How did we get involved in the Queen’s Capstone projects?
Trevor: We’ve been attending the Queen’s University career fair for several years now. The very first Capstone project we secured was led by Jamie Hamelin. Then I sponsored the next one. For the 2019-2020 academic year, I organized a larger group from Entuitive to participate. I knew Nick and our colleague Navan Chawla were already giving guest lectures on parametric modelling. So, whereas previous Capstone projects were design focused, we wanted to challenge the students this time to focus on parametric modeling.
What was the most challenging part of these two projects?
Hailey: One important challenge that was evident early on was the lack of stress on the value of coding and computational logic for civil engineering students from an academic standpoint. Universities are still very new to parametric design, especially being applied to structural engineering. A strong understanding of programming logic is essential in developing successful parametric models. Nevertheless, we were able to convince the students that this software is paramount in the industry and the applications are endless.
Chehong: Rhino, Grasshopper, Galapagos, and Karamba3D together allow users to build generative algorithms that analyze structural designs more efficiently. If the user has certain specifications for columns, for example, these can be input into the algorithm so that multiple options can be tested while maintaining the design requirements.
Peter: In essence, users input their rules and test around them for the best, most efficient design, allowing for thousands of design iterations. This allows us to reduce the amount of time and effort spent in the preliminary and schematic design stages of a project.
Nick: But because most of the work goes into setting up the right script in the first place, our students had a hard time showing their progress to their professors and TAs. In future projects, we plan to ensure the professors are aware of our expectations so they have a better perspective on the students’ progress.
What was the most interesting aspect of the Capstone projects?
Trevor: One of the interesting lessons we learned revolved around the appreciation for the software and its applications. Since the students were writing a Grasshopper script for the first few months, it was tough for them to show their progress as it was in a model their professors and TAs knew little about.
Once we pulled more and more information into the model, the students were able to appreciate what they were building, and more importantly, prove their progress for grading purposes.
It certainly takes time to develop a strong understanding of the software and its limitless applications, but incorporating it into a year-long course is a great way to start that process.
Hailey: We’re inevitably trying to shift the process away from being design-intensive to coding-intensive.
Tell us about your favourite parts of the year.
Nick: I really enjoyed guiding the students through roadblocks. We’d meet with them every week to check in on their progress and help them through any problems. It was really gratifying to help our group solve various challenges and see them make headway.
Hailey: Absolutely. The best parts were when we were able to help them through problems with the script. It was great to see our students have those aha moments, really learning and understanding how to use the various software packages.
Trevor: I loved seeing the final products. Seeing the final deliverable our group came up with was awesome, and I felt proud to have been a part of it. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect, so it was gratifying to see the final product first-hand.
Chehong: I felt the same. Having the final product come together was a great feeling. For many design problems, the software really does help you. Because sometimes what looks like the best solution isn’t actually the best solution. You really can create the most efficient design.
Peter: My favourite part was the week-by-week lessons and the interactions that came along with them. Seeing the students come to realize the almost endless possibilities with the software and their newfound appreciation of the design process was very gratifying.
Thanks so much to Trevor Smith, Nicholas Zeeb, Hailey Quiquero, Chehong Tsang, and Peter Loudfoot for talking to us about this year’s Queen’s Capstone Projects. We look forward to more great educational initiatives between Entuitive and university engineering programs.