Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
One of the challenges faced in engineering education is to teach students how to think about the element of “what” in a project before they get into the aspect of “how.” In industry, and also in design classes this is mainly encapsulated in the “product requirement” phase of System Engineering. According to many studies and design course outcomes and as observed in industry, learning project requirements and background is a critical element of System Engineering. A comprehensive and unambiguous list of product requirement (keeping the user in mind) sets the correct tone for the preliminary design exercises, improves the system design, reduces the design and development time, effort, budget, as well as the probability of rework in a project.
However, most of the engineering subjects and courses are designed to train students to think about “how” to solve a given problem instead of “what and where” lies the need. Many students go through the rigorous “requirement” exercise only during the capstone design courses as part of a team project. Before which very few students have been introduced to the skills and tools required to interact with customers/client to understand the requirements. Therefore, several student teams not only struggle to understand the value of good “product requirements” but also struggle to come up with a comprehensive list of product requirements which defines the scope of the problem correctly. This is true especially when given an ambiguous or an open ended problem or conflicting customer requirements / needs, occurrences of all of which in an industry setting are very high.
To help students think about the right “what”s and come up with a relevant, important and thus good list of product requirements, a 4-step process was introduced in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) capstone design class. This method goes beyond highlighting the importance and need for “product requirements” to students. It has an iterative structure comprised of various intra-team exercises, structured client/customer interactions and in-class workshops, which teaches them to ask the right questions. The method is designed to be applicable to variety of projects including hardware, system design, software engineering, etc. The teams which followed the process came up with far better, more comprehensive and complete list of quality product requirements than the teams which did not. The former teams also understood the depth of the problem much better and this was reflected in their preliminary system design. This paper explains the 4-step process in detail and presents the improved outcomes and thus improved System Engineering in the ECE capstone design due to that.
Gupta, R. A., & Dunko, G. A. (2018, June), A Four-step Method for Capstone Design Teams to Gather Relevant and Well-defined Product Requirements Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/29679
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