June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Design in Engineering Education
22.292.1 - 22.292.13
Body-Storming, Super Heroes and Sci-Tech Publications: Techniques to Enhance the Ideation ProcessThe ideation (concept generation) step in the design process likely has the most potential fordesigners to exercise their creativity. Many techniques are used during the ideation or conceptgeneration phase in order to enhance designers’ ability to innovate. Some of these techniquesinclude 6-3-5 (sometimes called Brain Writing or C-Sketch), Design by Analogy, MindMapping, Morphological Analysis and TIPS/TRIZ. In an attempt to augment this set of ideationtechniques, we have developed, implemented and assessed three new techniques whose goal is toenhance the ideation process. The first technique involves a very physically oriented processwhere the designers actively play the role of the systems that they are working to develop. Wecall the technique “body-storming” as it, in some ways, mimics the brain-storming technique, butin a much more physical manner. A similar technique was previously proposed for developmentof functional models where the designer “becomes the functional flow” in order to investigatethe functional sequence [Otto & Wood, 2000]. The context for implementation of the body-storming technique is a project where we are developing a small (approximately 8”x8”x 15”)robotics system that can navigate over a relatively large (24” height) obstacle located in a cave ortunnel. To implement the technique, the designers constructed a simulated cave/tunnel, placedappropriately sized obstacles in the simulated cave/tunnel and attempted to personally (bodily)navigate over them. The process provided a surge in student motivation as well as a newunderstanding and appreciation for the difficulty of the problem as the brainwaves seemed toincrease with student heart rates as they climbed over, through and around obstacles. Theprocess resulted in the genesis of two new conceptual ideas as well as providing valuable insightinto the modification and refinement of many concepts previously created using other ideationtechniques.The second technique used the Sci-Tech publications Popular Mechanics (PM) and PopularScience (PS) to seed the ideation process. This idea has its origins in previous work fromSaunders [Saunders et. al., 2009]. Designers were asked to review a number of PS and PMpublications and look for technology that applied to their specific design problem. In addition tothe obvious applications (for example a new small battery technology for the robotics applicationor a new solar technology for an energy harvesting project), the designers were directed to lookfor applications of cutting edge technologies that were likely not what the original inventor hadplanned. Again this technique showed tremendous potential as evidenced by over 12 newconcepts that were developed using this technique by a design team working on energyharvesting technology and the multiple conceptual ideas that were originated and existingconcepts that were improved by the robotics team.The Energy Harvesting team implemented our third new ideation technique which involvedimagining how superheros and cartoon characters might address the specific designrequirements. This technique has its roots in our study of historical innovators where we havediscovered that questioning basic constraints and assumptions of a problem can lead toinnovation [White et. al. 2010]. Superheroes are obviously not limited by the physicalconstraints we have; therefore, the exercise helped us think about a larger space of possiblesolutions. The team performed a 6-3-5 –like exercise to list sources of energy, creative ways tocapture energy and methods of embodying the design. Some people ended up adding fictionalcharacters who may not be considered a traditional superhero or a cartoon character, but one whohad fictional capabilities (like Harry Potter). This exercise was a lot of fun; and it producedalmost 30 feasible ideas. In the paper, foundations for the development of the techniques,specifics for their implementation and details of the assessment are provided.
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