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MEC325: Introduction to Engineering Design

This is the home page for design-related materials by Dr. Salustri for MEC325.
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Announcements and other information and courseware will be made available through D2L.


Professor Filippo A. Salustri
office: EPH-301
tel: 416.979.5000 x557749
About me
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Professor Patrick Neumann
office: EPH-338C or EPH-313C
tel: 416.979.5000 x7738


Wednesdays 17:00 - 18:00, via Zoom
Thursdays 08:00 - 10:00, via Zoom

I do not carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.Albert Einstein, 1879-1955

Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.B.F. Skinner, 1904-1990

I am not different from you. I am different like you.unknown

Other Information


  • Labs will be run via Zoom.
  • There are no labs in Week 1.
Section Date/Time Regular Lab Weeks 2 & 12 TA
1 Fri 08:00 - 10:00 KHE 137 TBA
2 Fri 08:00 - 10:00 KHE 139 TBA
3 Fri 12:00 - 14:00 KHE 137 TBA
4 Fri 12:00 - 14:00 KHE 139 TBA
5 Tue 10:00 - 12:00 KHE 137 TBA
6 Tue 10:00 - 12:00 KHE 139 TBA
7 Tue 16:00 - 18:00 KHE 137 TBA
8 Tue 16:00 - 18:00 KHE 139 TBA
9 Tue 08:00 - 10:00 KHE 137 TBA
10 Tue 08:00 - 10:00 KHE 139 TBA
11 Thu 16:00 - 18:00 KHE 137 TBA
12 Thu 16:00 - 18:00 KHE 139 TBA
13 Wed 12:00 - 14:00 KHE 137 TBA
14 Wed 12:00 - 14:00 KHE 139 TBA

Some Lecture Notes

WARNING: Lecture slides have not necessarily been updated. Each set of slides will be updated by the day of the corresponding lecture. Refer to the Weekly Schedule to see when each topic is covered.

Other useful things:

What students have said

Below are comments from actual students about this course, drawn from comments submitted with the Faculty Course Survey some time since I arrived at Ryerson in 1999. I have provided commentary as required.

Student comments are verbatim as provided by the students, in boxes; instructor remarks are in plain text below each box.

God damn the is a real fucking pain to navigate sometimes.

I guess you'd prefer I just required you to buy the dozen or so textbooks from which the wiki material has been culled? Cuz that's what I had to do when I was an undergrad….

I get that the wiki is imperfect. I'm working on it. But I also need your help. When you find something hinky in there, let me know! If you ask around, you'll find out I do respond to such issues very quickly if at all possible.

(Also, see how swearing brings some real emotion into the student's comment, without actually insulting anyone? I really understand this student's frustration, and appreciate his willingness to tell me about it without fear and in plain language.)

Many students are afraid of this prof….

Quite frankly, this freaks me out a bit. I'm not trying to be scary; I'm trying to be realistic. When you graduate and get real engineering jobs, you'll have to deal with bosses and co-workers who are arrogant, delusional, megalomaniacs. Not all of them will be bad, of course, but some will be - it's human nature. You need to learn to work in those kinds of environments to have a career and a decent life.

In University, however, there is a “safety net”. I might seem like an asshole, but it's an act. Underneath it, I'm here only to help you learn and succeed.

I guess the message here is: It's okay to be afraid of me, at first, so long as you learn to manage that fear and ultimately recognize that I'm on your side.

The course itself is good. However, there is a group project (Major Design Project) that accounts for 45% of our mark. I find this to be extremely unfair. The project is weighted very heavily and is very group dependent. It is unfair to those with group members who do not do their share of work. This project is not one where a single person, or even a few can carry the weight of others because there is just too much to do. It is understandable that we will have to work in groups that are not ideal, but we should be able to learn teamwork skills without it affecting 45% of our grade. It is very frustrating.

Right. Teamwork is crucial in engineering; that's why it's worth just about 1/2 the course. If you're having trouble with your team, though, you need to contact the instructor ASAP. With a class this large, we cannot proactively check on every team every week; so we need teams to come to us for help.

We are looking for ways to better gauge team performance and intervene more quickly, but no matter what we put in place, it will never be able to replace a team actually bringing problems to the instructors' attention.

The instructor really needs to explain all concepts much more clearly and he should take more time explaining those concepts so students can clearly understand and learn. The instructor and teaching assistants really need to explain all steps clearly for the lab so students can actually know what they should be doing.

The design roadmap shows all the steps in order. Each major stage of the process is documented with examples and deliverables are given. So everything you need is already there.

If there's something you don't understand, then ask your TA. If your TA can't answer well enough, go see your instructor. That's how it works.

I set my office hours to coincide with gaps in the 2nd year schedule - so I know you're free. Nonetheless, no more than 1% of students ever come to my office hours.

So, no, I do not need to explain things. You need to ask more questions!

The milestone projects are too much work for 5 people. If a group has less then [sic] 6 or 7 people the project takes a lot more time and as a result we lose time for other courses . Also the ergonomics part of the course feels so disconnected from the labs and design portion of the course. It feels like 2 separate courses with entirely different theory.

We have been trying to trim back the workload (both on students and on TAs) over the years. We're still working on it.

A significant problem for us is that student response is a “moving target” from year to year. One year it's too hard; the next year it's too easy. So it's hard to judge where we need to tweak the course. Rest assured, however, we spend a lot of time each summer reviewing and tweaking things.

As for the disconnect between HF and design - you're right; this is AFAIK the only course in an English-speaking university that takes an integrated HF/design approach. So we're actually creating a whole new way of doing things.

The reason for combining HF and design is that Ryerson recognizes that mechanical engineers need to know more about HF, and industrial engineers need to know more about design.

If I had an ex-wife that hated me and wanted to make things difficult for the sake of making it difficult I would expect her to be just like this course. And just like my ex-wife, I'll be happy when it's over.

Um,… yeah. “It's not you; it's me.” I just have this desperate need to make sure everyone who graduates will make good, responsible engineers.

Also, just FYI, in written language (which one presumably can more carefully consider one's words), it would be better to use “spouse” than “wife” in this context.

Some of the assignments were ambiguous; making it hard to understand what to do. Also, the majority of our mark is based on group work which does not reflect the knowledge personally obtained by students.

Ambiguity is a hallmark of design problems. Most students have been spoon-fed contrived and utterly unrealistic assignments in elementary and secondary school. Just cuz that's what you're used to don't make it right.

As for student grade being mostly derived from group work - that's just incorrect. In the year when this comment was made, a simple review of the course outline showed 50% of one's grade came from individual work. Beyond this, there is the design journal (which is individual work) and the Workload contributions to the group project (which also help separate individual work). So overall, the grade is more than half composed of individual work.

Salustri uses a lot of gendered language and then makes apologies/excuses for it, which is disorienting: if you don't like it, why not disengage from it?

Did you know that for the first few decades of my life, the term “gendered language” didn't even exist (and I can prove it)? Philosophically, the modern notion that a word can in isolation provide a value judgement is ridiculous. That includes words generally considered taboo. The notion of censoring historical texts, for instance, because they contain words that, if used today, might be offensive to some, only castrates history and eviscerates the reader's capacity to truly understand what was meant in the original text.

More pragmatically, old habits are very hard to break. Also, English is a miserable language for being gender-neutral; we simply lack the constructs to do it with any grace and flow to one's speech.

Irrelevant material. Groupwork a child could do. Some students are worse than children. Will never assist the future. Nothing new, nothing groundbreaking. Is very intuitive material.

One might then ask: How is it that the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board has no significant issues with this course?

Most other students - those who struggle with the course because they've never done anything like it - would beg to differ. I think the important point here is that every student's perspective of this course will be different, and what some students fail to understand is that we instructors cannot possibly cater to every student's perspective, even though we would very much like to.

This course is the most heaviest out of all my courses. For example, I spend several weekends dedicated to lab and projects. Please consider reducing the amount of work to do or extend this course to two semesters.

It's difficult for me to reconcile this comment with the previous comment. I would direct students to this spreadsheet1), which gives a couple of estimates of how much time each student should be spending, outside regular class-time. I target estimate #1 generally - about four hours per week per course.

Also, we are constantly trying to refine the material to make the course “better.” Comments like this one, and the one above, are not particularly helpful because they are not specific enough. If the comment was something like “the concept design stage was too rushed compared to other parts of the design work” then we can look at specifically addressing that. It is essentially impossible, however, to know where to focus our attention for improvements without a little more help from students.

worst professor in ryerson

Dr. Salustri is an amazing professor. He is a very helpful individual. Very blunt and honest in giving advice (which is a good thing)!

unfair course

Dr. Salustri is an excellent professor.

I hope you can appreciate the difficulty I have in trying to reconcile these kinds of comments. Again, if the comments (particularly the first one) had been more specific, then I could at least try to address those short-comings.

Salustri's website definitely contains all of the information, but it is sometimes difficult to navigate through everything when trying to get an overall sense of a topic…. A more linear organization (or at least a more linear outline of the website content related to what we need to know for this course) would be helpful.

This is a very common comment about my courseware “wiki.”

There are many “linear” textbooks on design, but all of them are riddled with cross-references to some other chapter or section. The key here is that “design methodology” (that's the formal name of what you're learning) is inherently non-linear; it's just not the same as math and science. There's various reasons for that, but they're irrelevant here. Also, different people learn in different ways, and end up using the website with different “paths” through the material. I really don't want to hinder that, because that kind of cognitive exploration is, I think, an important design skill in itself.

Having said this, though, I do recognize that some kind of “linear outline” would be useful. In fact, I think that's a great idea. In fact, that's what the design roadmap is for; it gives students a linear overview of the whole process, step by step, and in order. The design roadmap should be your “best friend” in this course. Still, I am working on other ways to create “paths” through the courseware that will help students.

…Needs to select better Teaching Assistants.

I don't actually choose the teaching assistants. I provide a list of “preferred” students as potential teaching assistants. The actual allocation of teaching assistants is done with respect to certain rules by the Department and, in the end, while they try to arrange for the best assistants for every course, it's just not always possible.

Only problem I had was not getting Workshop #3 handed back before Milestone #2 was due. It seems unproductive to do the workshop that functions as a trial run and not get feedback when doing it for real.

Scheduling in this course is always a problem. Every year, the calendar changes, and the timetable changes. This means that every year, there's some new problem that screws something up. We usually do not get our timetables till late August, so we have almost no time to adjust the course to account for those timetabling “oddities.” And it's different every year. We are trying to find a more permanent solution, but we just haven't been able to come up with anything that reliably works every year, no matter what timetabling does.

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mec325/start.txt · Last modified: 2020.08.12 10:04 by Fil Salustri