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Body-Storming, Super Heroes, and Sci-Tech Publications:Techniques to Enhance the Ideation Process

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Design Tools & Methodology II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.292.1 - 22.292.13



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Paper Authors


Daniel D. Jensen U.S. Air Force Academy

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Dr. Dan Jensen is a Professor of Engineering Mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy where he has been since 1997. He received his B.S. (Mechanical Engineering), M.S. (Applied Mechanics) and Ph.D. (Aerospace Engineering Science) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has worked for Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, NASA, University of the Pacific, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and MSC Software Corp. His research includes development of innovative design methodologies and enhancement of engineering education.

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Kendra Crider U.S. Air Force Academy

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Kendra Crider is a major in the U.S. Air Force and an assistant professor at the Air Force Academy in the Engineering Mechanics department. Maj. Crider’s areas of interest are in systems engineering, concept generation, students’ retention of academic material, and optics. She is currently working with a group of undergraduate capstone students to design and develop an energy harvesting prototype that will be used to power health monitoring systems.

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Kristin L. Wood University of Texas, Austin

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Kristin Wood is the Cullen Trust Endowed Professor in Engineering and the University Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Wood’s current research interests focus on innovative product design, development, and evolution. The current and near-future objective of this research is to develop design strategies, representations, and languages that will result in more comprehensive design tools, innovation processes, innovative manufacturing techniques, and design teaching aids at the college, pre-college, and industrial levels. Contact:

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John J. Wood U.S. Air Force Academy

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Dr. John J. Wood is currently an Associate Professor of Engineering Mechanics at the United States Air Force Academy. Dr. Wood completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University in the design and empirical analysis of compliant systems. He received his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Wright State University and his B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1984. Dr. Wood joined the faculty at the United States Air Force Academy in 1994 while serving on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. After completing his Ph.D. in 2002, he returned to the Air Force Academy where he has been on the faculty ever since. The current focus of Dr. Wood’s research is the continued development of empirical testing methods using similitude-based approaches. This approach provides significant potential for increasing the efficiency of the design process through a reduction in required full-scale testing and an expansion of the projected performance profiles using empirically-based prediction techniques. Dr. Wood’s research also includes the development of robotic ground and air vehicle systems using innovative conceptual design techniques for current technology implementations, as well as futuristic projections, applied in the framework of a senior capstone design course.

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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.

Jensen, D. D., & Crider, K., & Wood, K. L., & Wood, J. J. (2011, June), Body-Storming, Super Heroes, and Sci-Tech Publications:Techniques to Enhance the Ideation Process Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17573

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