San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
Design in Engineering Education
25.118.1 - 25.118.14
A Unique Approach to Characterizing the Engineering Design Process While engineers frequently refer to “the engineering design process,” they rarelyhave the the same representation of that process in mind. This paper describes an effort togenerate a representation of the process that accurately describes engineering design atmultiple levels, across engineering disciplines, and in industry and academia. This design process representation was born of necessity when aninterdisciplinary team of university engineering faculty, clinical engineering faculty(professionals with experience as both practicing engineers and secondary classroomteachers), engineering research fellows and learning sciences faculty came together in aneffort to create design-based curriculum for students and teachers in high school, post-secondary and graduate programs. Realizing the differences in what individual teammembers meant by “the engineering design process”, a subset of team membersundertook a process to clearly articulate a representation of the process that would beaccessible to high school students, applicable in engineering teacher preparation courses,and authentic to the experience of professional engineers. The team began by benchmarking a selection of thirteen unique cross-disciplinaryrepresentations that were selected to reflect the engineering design process inprofessional, post-secondary and K-12 settings. Team members identified 10 cross-cutting themes (steps) in these characterizations, mapped each representation onto this listof steps and analyzed the list against professional experience to identify deficiencies. When the steps had been finalized, the team began the process of identifying therelationships between steps. The resultant topography was complex, with many loops andarrows. To make this representation more accessible to novices, closely related stepswere grouped into five super-steps that describe the engineering design process at thehighest level (identify, describe, generate, embody, finalize). Once the process had been distilled to its simplest form, the project teamreintroduced the complexity by drawing looping steps within super-steps and annotatingthe process to include examples of the activities undertaken in each step. The result is aunique, multi-level representation of the engineering design process that is sufficientlysimple at its highest level so as to be accessible to students in a high school engineeringcourse, yet sufficiently complex at its most detailed level so as to be of use in solving awide range of engineering design challenges.
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