June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Design in Engineering Education
24.113.1 - 24.113.30
A Study on Teaching Functional Modeling in an Engineering Design CourseFunction provides an abstraction of a complex system which allows for engineering problems tobe simplified into representations more readily solvable using fundamental principles. Inengineering design, functional models tend to be of a more generalized nature based on thedesired (and anticipated) operation of a system being designed. Consequently, engineeringdesign derived functional representations do not aim to replace domain specific models but toencapsulate those models at a higher and more integrated system level. While the value offunction in engineering design seems to be generally recognized by its inclusion in manyengineering design textbooks, it remains a difficult concept to teach to students of engineeringdesign. Often function is taught prior to system realization meaning that students must considerfunctionally of a non-existent system based solely on collected design requirements andspecifications. This research study attempts to simplify this process of functional model creationfor students. Our overarching working hypothesis is that when students begin conceptgeneration with a quality functional model rather than a weak functional model, they are morelikely to see the value of understanding desired functionality early in the design process.The first step toward achieving this research goal is to develop a scaffolding approach thatconsistently helps students to arrive at quality functional models based on design requirementsand specifications prior to conceptual design. In this paper, the results of a study using ascaffolding approach to teaching functional model generation to undergraduate students in theirfirst engineering design course is presented. Our hypothesis for this portion of the study is thatstudents who learn functional modeling following the scaffolding approach will create flow-based functional models with significantly fewer errors when evaluated against functionalmodeling conventions.The scaffolding approach walks the students through the creation of a black box model, theenumeration of potential function-flow pairs, the creation of function chains describing flowtransformations through the system, and the aggregation of function chains into a completefunctional model. Students were divided into three groups for this study: (1) a control group ofstudents who were provided just the course notes and the text book, (2) an intermediate group ofstudents who were provided the course notes, the text book, and an additional example functionalmodel in their homework packet, and (3) an experimental group of students who were providedthe course notes, the text book, the scaffolding approach, and an additional example. Theanalysis of the results is discussed, and the preliminary evidence shows promise towardsupporting our hypothesis that the scaffolding approach has a positive impact.
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