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Comparison of Questioning-based and Reasoning-based Design Approaches

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

DEED Melange

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.299.1 - 24.299.21



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Paper Authors


Ang Liu University of Southern California

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Dr. Liu is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow and Manager of Viterbi iPodia Program at University of Southern California.

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Stephen Y. Lu University of Southern California

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Dr. Lu is the David Packard Chair in Manufacturing Engineering,
Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Director of Viterbi iPodia Program, at University of Southern California.

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Leveraging Social Constructionism to Support Concept Generation in Design ClassesConcept generation is one of the most difficult activities in engineering design. In practice,concept generation often emerges as a social construction process where a group of designerscollaboratively constructs both purposeful and functional artifacts. This is especially true in thecontext of engineering design classes where team project based learning serves as a basicapproach. To date, the commonly lectured concept generation methods in design classes can beclassified into two categories: reductionism (or logical) approach and unstructured (or intuitive)approach. The reductionism approach, such as TRIZ, follows a highly structured process toanalyze the given problem and generate new solutions based on the database of previouslycategorized solutions. On the other hand, the unstructured approach, such as brainstorming, relieson various intuitive activities to synthesize relevant information and stimulate unconsciousthoughts. The practical challenge is that neither the reductionism approach nor the unstructuredapproach are intended (hence adequate) to guide the effective social constructionism in astructured manner. In the past, relatively few efforts have been devoted to develop and teach thestructured design approaches that leverage social constructionism to support concept generationwithin design classes.This study introduces and investigates two new concept generation methods: Innovative DesignThinking (IDT) and Extraordinary Breakthrough Thinking (EBT). Both methods arecharacterized by their semi-structured social constructionism process, but they differ from eachother with respect to the origin of method, specifics of operation, and level of being structured.EBT is an empirical method that guides multiple designers to generate concepts by asking smartquestions. In contrast, IDT has less empirical basis, instead it adopts some basic principles inlogic to guide multiple designers to engage in a structured reasoning process to create concepts.Both IDT and EBT are well-established methods that have been widely lectured in university andindustry over the past few years.A controlled experiment is conducted upon a graduate engineering design course, namely“Advanced Mechanical Design”, that is offered in a top-10 engineering school in the U.S. Thedesign class is equally divided into 8 project teams, and these teams are separated into twoparallel sessions where the two different methods (IDT and EBT) are lectured separately. Thetask is to design “a technical system that can effectively prevent a bicycle from being stolen”.First, a qualitative data analysis is conducted to measure to what extent each project team hasrelied on social constructionism to guide its design process. Next, the design outcome isevaluated based on a set of pre-defined design metrics that are adopted based on the KanoCustomer Satisfaction model. Finally, a correlation analysis is performed to associate thefindings of the design process with that of the design outcome.

Liu, A., & Lu, S. Y. (2014, June), Comparison of Questioning-based and Reasoning-based Design Approaches Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20190

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