Student perspective: Trial & error in the design lab leads to real-world solutions

Maddie Hardiman '21 began her Manufacturing & Design course at Peddie because of her ambitions to be an engineer. “I was really interested in aerospace engineering and I still am,” she said. “Being able to create and design and problem solve would be a huge asset in that career.”

In the Izzo Design Lab, directed by Scott Meredith, Hardiman began her adventure. Her class was instructed in the use of Computer Aided Design, or CAD, and taught how to use the machines available in the Design Lab, including 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutters.

“We’re really lucky at Peddie to have access to that kind of stuff,” said Hardiman, referring to the quality of the equipment in the design lab and maker space, but also to the culture of experimentation and innovation. “Having that environment is extremely helpful. It really allows people from any background to have the same experience.”

After learning the basics, students were given open-ended assignments. “There’s a lot of trial and error," said Hardiman. "Which I really liked. Everything doesn’t work perfectly the first time and it was really neat to have an idea, create it, design it, print it and see if it works. And if it doesn’t, make adjustments. That was really fun for me, to problem solve and work through and figure things out. And then have a final product where it shows that, after everything, I have something that will work.”

Hardiman gave her final project for the class, a phone stand of her own design, to her father, who took it to work with him at Cerexa Pharmaceuticals, where he works in IT. There, the phone stand caught the eye of his boss, who was impressed to learn that the phone stand had been designed and manufactured by a teenage girl. This led to a unique opportunity for Hardiman.

That was really fun for me, to problem solve and work through and figure things out. And then have a final product where it shows that, after everything, I have something that will work.”

The pharmacy was using a packaging machine for which replacement parts were no longer available. Hardiman was asked to try her hand at reproducing the obsolete parts. She took an existing part and designed a replacement the same way she designed her phone stand: by measuring the dimensions and angles of the existing part, placing those measurements into CAD, printing the part and testing the part to make sure it could function under pressure.

The replacement part performed brilliantly, and when Cerexa wanted to improve the efficiency of their packaging machines, they called on Hardiman again. She analyzed the existing design, made adjustments and created an entirely new design to help the machine function more effectively. Maddie’s prototype was then worked into the new design of the machine. 

“I’m a teenager designing stuff that’s actually being used," said Hardiman. "It’s really empowering to be able to have that experience."