Adam Clare - Using Engineering To Democratize Design

“One of the themes throughout my research is the idea of resilience.” Dr. Adam Clare is investigating how manufacturing technologies can help build a more sustainable future. 

Dr. Adam Clare

Education: PhD (University of Liverpool), MEng (University of Liverpool)

What led you to engineering, and to mechanical engineering in particular?

When I was in secondary school, math and physics almost seemed like an endless video game to me, where everything just got more and more interesting the deeper you got into it. Along with liking these subjects, I realized I wanted my career to have an impact on people.

Engineering was a technical field where I could have a direct way to help others.

As for being interested in mechanical engineering, some of this may have come from my family history. My uncle owned a small company that made concrete products, and things always needed fixing, whether that was the concrete mixer or a leaking fuel tank. So from about the age of 13 I spent a lot of weekends in overalls repairing equipment. That got me interested in how things are designed, and I realized you could go to university to learn how to design products and work on complex engineering challenges.

Mechanical Engineering

Tell us about your research.

I worked at the University of Nottingham for over 10 years doing research for sophisticated engineering systems, including machining processes and additive manufacturing for Rolls Royce and other industrial companies. It was fantastic. But I wanted to solve new and different problems and UBC offered me an opportunity to do that.

I am very interested in the democratization of design. By this, I mean creating tools that can be used by non-experts to solve their specific problems.

An example might be a remote community that is moving towards energy self-sufficiency. How can we design a system or tool that members of this community could use to maintain and operate their energy system? Or to 3D print a part they need? 

I’m also doing research on stochastics (introducing random variables) in engineering design and manufacture.

Every species exploits this kind of random distribution to their advantage, and I’m interested in incorporating stochastics into computer programs and design tools. The hope is that doing so could lead to better engineering components. 

Dr. Clare's Research

Why is this research important?

One of the themes throughout my research is the idea of resilience.

In my work on democratization of design, for example, it’s finding ways to help individuals and communities be in a better position to respond to technical challenges. In my work on stochastic design, it’s having an impact by creating structures and engineering systems that are more resilient to damage.  

Watch Dr. Adam Clare speak at UBC Engineering Open House

What undergraduate courses do you teach?

I’m currently teaching a course on design for additive manufacturing. Although students learn how to do some interesting projects with 3D printing, that’s not the true objective of the course. I’m teaching students to design tools that will empower non-technical people to do high level 3D printing so they can solve problems for themselves. 

Additive Manufacturing Design

What skills do you help students develop?

I want all engineering students to graduate with an understanding of the responsibility they have to give back to society, and to be committed to using their problem-solving skills to make things better for as many people as possible.

Our world faces many challenges – from water and food security to the need for new approaches to energy and resource use – and engineers have a large role to play in solving some of these problems. 

Why should students choose UBC?

I moved from England to Canada to work at UBC because of the creativity that I see here. 

To solve problems in mechanical engineering at the highest level, you need to be creative.

Being surrounded by others who see the word through different eyes, who approach problems differently and who value those differences is very exciting. Students who come to UBC to study engineering benefit from this environment.

Anything else?

I think it’s important to emphasize the value of equity, diversity and inclusivity in engineering.

 It’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s good for coming up with better solutions, it’s good for society and it’s good for business. I see one of my roles as helping to switch as diverse a group of people as possible on to engineering whenever possible. We should be encouraging kids at a young age to explore and design and create, and showing them that they can use that curiosity to solve problems in engineering.


UBC manufacturing engineering students

Manufacturing Engineering

Students in the Manufacturing program will gain broad exposure to foundational engineering disciplines, and training across a range of major manufacturing processes and platforms, and instruction in production management and modern manufacturing...

Manufacturing Engineering
Two UBC mechanical engineering students prepare for the autonomous landing platform competition.

Mechanical Engineering

As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design. As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design.

Mechanical Engineering

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