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A Unique Approach to Characterizing the Engineering Design Process

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design Tools and Methodology I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.118.1 - 25.118.14



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Paper Authors


Lisa Guerra NASA

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Lisa Guerra has 25 years of experience in the NASA aerospace community. Guerra is currently working with the UTeachEngineering program. She recently completed a four-year assignment from NASA headquarters to establish a systems engineering curriculum at the University of Texas, Austin, as a pilot for national dissemination. Her efforts in systems engineering curriculum can be located at Guerra’s most recent position at NASA Headquarters was Director of the Directorate Integration Office in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. In that position, her responsibilities involved strategic planning, international cooperation, cross-directorate coordination, architecture analysis, and exploration control boards. Guerra also spent three years at the Goddard Space Flight Center as Program Integration Manager for future high-energy astrophysics missions, particularly the James Webb Space Telescope. She began her career at the Johnson Space Center working for Eagle Engineering and SAIC, focused on conceptual design of advanced spacecraft for human missions to the moon and Mars. Guerra earned a B.S in aerospace engineering and a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame. She received a master's of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, Austin.

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David T. Allen University of Texas, Austin

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David Allen is the Gertz Regents Professor of chemical engineering, and the Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources, at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of six books and more than 200 papers in areas ranging from coal liquefaction and heavy oil chemistry to the chemistry of urban atmospheres. For the past decade, his work has focused primarily on urban air quality and the development of materials for environmental and engineering education. Allen was a Lead Investigator for the first and second Texas Air Quality studies, which involved hundreds of researchers drawn from around the world, and which have had a substantial impact on the direction of air quality policies in Texas. He has developed environmental educational materials for engineering curricula and for the University’s core curriculum, as well as engineering education materials for high school students. The quality of his work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation (through the Presidential Young Investigator Award), the AT&T Foundation (through an Industrial Ecology Fellowship), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (through the Cecil Award for contributions to environmental engineering and through the Research Excellence Award of the Sustainable Engineering Forum), the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (through their Distinguished Lecturer Award), and the state of Texas (through the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award). He has won teaching awards at the University of Texas and UCLA. Allen received his B.S. degree in chemical engineering, with distinction, from Cornell University in 1979. His M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering were awarded by the California Institute of Technology in 1981 and 1983. He has held visiting faculty appointments at the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Department of Energy.

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Richard H. Crawford University of Texas, Austin

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Richard H. Crawford is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, and is the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellow No. 3. He received his B.S.M.E. from Louisiana State University in 1982 and his M.S.M.E. in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1989, both from Purdue University. He joined the faculty of UT in Jan. 1990 and teaches mechanical engineering design and geometry modeling for design. Crawford's research interests span topics in computer-aided mechanical design and design theory and methodology, including research in computer representations to support conceptual design, design for manufacture and assembly, and design retrieval; developing computational representations and tools to support exploration of very complex engineering design spaces; research in solid freeform fabrication, including geometric processing, control, design tools, manufacturing applications; and design and development of energy harvesting systems. Crawford is co-founder of the DTEACh program, a Design Technology program for K-12, and is active on the faculty of the UTeachEngineering program that seeks to educate teachers of high school engineering.

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Cheryl Farmer UTeachEngineering

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Cheryl Farmer is the founding Program Manager and Project Director of UTeachEngineering. Funded through a five-year, $12.5 million Math and Science Partnership grant from the National Science Foundation, UTeachEngineering offers a well-designed, well-rounded, and design-based high school engineering course that can be implemented at low cost in virtually any setting, as well as a variety of professional development programs for pre-service and in-service teachers who want to add engineering to their teaching portfolio. Prior to co-founding UTeachEngineering, Farmer spent several years managing programs for both K-12 and higher education. Before entering higher education, Farmer worked as a Project Manager in the environmental field. Her education includes graduate work in mathematics and business administration and a B.A. in mathematics and liberal arts, with highest honors, from the University of Texas, Austin.

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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.

Guerra, L., & Allen, D. T., & Crawford, R. H., & Farmer, C. (2012, June), A Unique Approach to Characterizing the Engineering Design Process Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20878

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