June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Design in Engineering Education
26.374.1 - 26.374.18
Engineering Design Process: More than the ‘Standardized Loop’Introduction - Engineering design is a complex process that has been simplified to embrace asystematic ‘loop,’ which can be easily taught to students and utilized by professionals. It is well-recognized that simplified design loops do not represent all aspects of design, and research inengineering education has addressed complexities; even so, there remain aspects of the designprocess that need further research. In particular, understanding how engineering design is bothshaped by and also shapes the setting of design activity, including symbolic and material setting,institutional and organizational structure, and the like. Throughout a two-year ethnographic studyof university and professional engineering design teams, we investigated how phenomena likespace, time, and organizational structure play important roles in creating an authentic designexperience. This research adds to understanding complexities of engineering design and allowsus to rethink how critical, yet subtle components are used to frame and scaffold the designprocess. Overall, the findings will help structure more authentic design courses at universitiesand improve the quality of design work.Conceptual Framework - This ethnographic study was approached within the conceptualframework of heterogeneous engineering, which emerged from Social Studies of Science andTechnology as a way of countering a received “ideology of engineering” that reducesengineering to the application of technical principles in the service of solving technical problems.The notion of heterogeneous engineering, in contrast, sees engineers as system builders who areinvolved in the active stabilization of systems composed of heterogeneous elements, both humanand nonhuman. In this sense, what is being engineered is not just a technical object; rather,engineering does produce technical objects, but also persons, institutions, and everything that ispart of the system that constitutes the object. All of these objects create the design ecology,which are interrelated components used to support the design process, and are critical to thesuccess of the project.Methodology - The central methodology is that of cognitive ethnography, which examines howcognitive tasks are accomplished within functional systems constituted of heterogeneouselements. Over two years, six undergraduate and three professional design teams were observedusing traditional ethnographic techniques. Interviews were conducted with members of thedesign ecology, documents and correspondences were collected, and the culture andorganizational structure of these settings were understood. Together, the data was triangulatedand compared to see trends of these important, yet often overlooked design components.Preliminary Findings - The initial findings suggest that organizational contexts constituteprocesses of design differently. In the university, comparisons were made between the samecourses taught by different professors. Through this side-by-side comparison, we saw howproject scope, resource proximity, space allocation, and personal feedback are essential tocreating an authentic design experience. Additionally, in companies we witnessed the visibilityof the project, physical spacing of employees, and duration of design phases as potential barriersto success if overlooked. We believe that through our design process comparisons we willcontinue to unveil these subtle components of engineering design that have an immense impact.
Lauff, C. A., & Kotys-Schwartz, D. A., & O'Connor, K., & Rentschler, M. (2015, June), Comparing Organizational Structures: Two Case Studies of Engineering Companies Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23713
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