Lenovo and Aston Martin team up to share real-world STEAM case study for the classroom
June 13, 2023
What does a premiere technology company have in common with a luxury car brand? At Bett UK 2023, Lenovo’s Delia DeCourcy and Aston Martin’s Steve O’Connor teamed up to share the story behind Lenovo and Aston Martin’s collaborative design of the Lenovo ThinkStation PX. The design process provides an illuminating lesson on how different STEAM careers can work together to bring new ideas to life.
Around 2010, the world moved into the fourth industrial revolution, in which rapid technological advances are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds in new and exciting ways. As the technologies that power transformation — such as artificial intelligence, big data and analytics, and cloud and mobility — have grown in prominence, it has forever reshaped the career landscape.
The 2025 jobs outlook from the World Economic Forum suggests there will continue to be a high and increasing demand for workers with diverse STEAM skills, both technical and creative. But what does it look like when those skills come into play in the real world?
The origin story of the Lenovo ThinkStation PX provides a great example of STEAM education in action.
STEAM roles in action: Lenovo and Aston Martin’s collaboration on the Lenovo ThinkStation PX
Stage 1: Defining the problem
The story of almost any product begins in the same place — with a problem to solve. Lenovo’s industrial design director and the ThinkStation product manager looked at the customer feedback they’d received over the past several years to answer the questions: what are we building next, and who are we building it for?
ThinkStation customers made it clear they wanted more computing power for one of three reasons:
- They were dealing with more data as artificial intelligence and machine learning expanded.
- They needed computers for virtual, multi-user collaboration to support their hybrid or remote work environments.
- They wanted to get more work done faster and with greater precision.
STEAM career spotlight: A product manager serves as the bridge between engineers and designers. The product manager for this highly technical project had an engineering background.
Stage 2: Imagining a solution
Once the problem was clearly defined, the design teams began brainstorming solutions. During this phase, the Lenovo team expanded to include a principal ThinkStation engineer, a senior industrial designer, and several junior designers. The Aston Martin team grew to include a design director and several industrial designers as well.
In the UK headquarters of Aston Martin, the two design teams held collaborative workshops and discussions, keeping an open mind while still considering the product definition and requirements.
The Aston Martin team leveraged their deep understanding of thermal dynamics to develop three concepts for the exterior of the ThinkStation PX. At the end of this stage, they created models of their concepts and presented them to the Lenovo team. Together the teams agreed on a winning concept.
STEAM career spotlight: Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products—from appliances to toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make the products people use every day.
Stage 3: Planning and designing
With the design concept selected, the Lenovo team moved into the planning and creation stage. At this point, the team was led by the senior industrial designer, who worked with several engineers: the thermal engineer on airflow, the mechanical engineer on chassis design and structure, and the electrical engineer on the design of the motherboard and power requirements.
The senior industrial designer also had to determine how all the pieces of the PX would fit together—at first using computer-aided design (CAD) software to play with the proportions of the new ThinkStation and then using 3D-printed components.
The designer and engineers together built several models so they could perform visual and tactile tests of the product and to determine if the PX looked and felt correct as specified by the Aston Martin design team.
The Lenovo team then built non-functional prototypes with parts that could be manipulated to test the product’s fit, finish, thermal simulation, and digital modeling.
Finally, the Aston Martin design team was consulted as the models and prototypes evolved, providing input on the changes to the PX. Throughout the model and prototyping process, the Lenovo product manager was involved to ensure the product requirements were being met. When they weren’t, he helped to determine what design trade-offs needed to be made to accommodate thermal, mechanical, or electrical needs.
STEAM career spotlight: The industrial designers who led the ThinkStation PX development process represent the “A” in STEAM. If this were solely a STEM-focused project, we would be looking at many discreet parts instead of a sleek, thermodynamic box with a high level of usability and aesthetics.
Stage 4: Testing and improving
Stage 4 was the longest phase of the ThinkStation PX engineering design process. Factory prototypes were created by engineers around the world for mechanical and thermal testing. A functional prototype was used to test the motherboard and graphics cards.
Three new teams then entered to ensure the PX was easy to use, fix, and manufacture:
- The Lenovo user experience team conducted usability testing to ensure ease of use for features like the power button, flush door handle, and removable drives.
- The accessibility team ensured these features were usable by people of all physical abilities.
- The manufacturing team performed an analysis to determine if there was anything about the PX that would make it difficult to produce at scale.
Then the product manager, senior industrial designer, and principal engineer looked at the test results and, in consultation with the Aston Martin design team, made more adjustments.
STEAM career spotlight: For each of these team members, skills like persuasion, negotiation and flexibility were critical. Team members had to know how to pick their battles and when to be flexible. Communication was also a critical skill because the teams had members on three continents who speak different native languages. Sometimes visual communication was even more important than the spoken word.
Stage 5: Bringing the solution to market
Finally, the teams were ready to unveil the product to the world. The Lenovo marketing and PR teams worked diligently during the final months of the product design to prepare for the virtual kick-off event and the follow-up marketing campaigns. Lenovo’s sales teams around the world were also prepared to sell the PX once the machines were ready to ship.
STEAM career spotlight: Behind the word “marketing” is a team of people creating content like the photographs and videos you’ve seen in this blog, as well as social media and web content to share the PX with the intended customers.
How can you support STEAM education in your classroom?
The PX design story illustrates the importance of both the hard sciences and creativity – how thermal dynamics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computing knowledge when combined with design, multimedia creation and marketing to bring this new technology to the world.
How can you support your students to be ready for any of these careers—especially given the massive need for these skills in the job market?
Lenovo’s lead industrial designer has said that tinkering was critical to his design development. Give students the opportunity to tinker to get their engineering and design juices flowing. This can involve using a permanent or portable makerspace or doing project-based work.
Get your students involved in the F1 STEM Challenge. Students ages 9 to 19 use CAD software to collaborate, design, analyze, manufacture, test, and then race miniature compressed air powered cars. The challenge inspires students to use IT to learn about physics, aerodynamics, design, sponsorship, marketing, teamwork, media skills and financial strategy, and apply them in a practical and exciting way.
Lenovo is thrilled to partner with Intel globally on their Skills for Innovation initiative, which provides teachers with lessons to integrate design thinking and computational thinking across core subject areas.
These are great resources for getting started on incorporating technologies like machine learning, coding, and simulation into your classes–whether you teach history, science, math or English. The initiative also includes high-quality online professional development modules to help you boost your tech integration skills.
Information and communications technology (ICT) integration
Your digital toolbox plays a role in providing your students with a solid ICT foundation. Consistently incorporating a set of digital tools to enhance learning will not only engage students more deeply but ensure their workforce readiness.
To boost your students’ ICT skills, get yours in shape first. Lenovo is excited to partner with Tablet Academy to provide professional development to teachers that focuses on leveraging technology to improve student outcomes through personalized and blended learning.
The right technology
Students and teachers need the right technology for teaching and learning. Whether your classes are face to face or hybrid, students and teachers are putting more demands on their daily devices in terms of the number of programs running, video and audio needs, battery life, and the need for screen real estate.
Ensure you have devices that will enable students to engage in more complex computing as they mature. Keep in mind that computing demands are even greater when outfitting STEAM and innovation labs where students can engage in engineering and design tasks. Familiarity with devices that run complex CAD software will help students be future ready.
In addition, invest in software that supports safer, more engaging student learning. Lenovo offers an ecosystem of award-winning education software solutions that make digital learning more efficient and effective.
Guide safer, more effective STEAM learning with LanSchool and Lenovo NetFilter
Classroom management software LanSchool delivers tools that help teachers guide digital learning and keep students engaged. Features like screen monitoring, screen broadcasting, web limiting, chat, polling and more can help educators lead smooth and effective classroom STEAM projects from concept to completion.
As STEAM-based research starts to expand the way students use the internet, it’s important to ensure your school has the right digital guardrails in place. Lenovo NetFilter provides AI-driven web filtering and threat detection to keep students safer while working online. The premium version, Lenovo NetFilter+, adds real-time keystroke alerts for digital dangers, including cyberbullying, threats of violence, and suicidal ideation.
School IT teams can bundle these solutions together to access all these features at a discounted rate. See our current education software bundles here.
Share your STEAM projects!
Have you led a successful STEAM project in your classroom? Share your story on social media. Tag @LenovoEDU and @LanSchool with #MySTEAMSuccess.
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