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Design/Build/Test Projects Are Not All Created Equal

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.172.1 - 4.172.6

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Paper Authors

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Don L. Dekker

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2225


Don L. Dekker Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


Projects which include designing something, constructing something, and testing something are not all the same, and students will not learn the same set of skills from all of the projects. It is, therefore, important that the characteristics of different design/build/test (D/B/T) projects be understood so that the skills that the students learn are the same skills that will be required when they enter the workforce. Three very diverse examples of D/B/T projects will be used to demonstrate the variety of D/B/T projects and student activities. These three projects will also be used to show how the type of project is related to the skills that students learn. The three projects discussed will include the Solar Phantom, solar powered race car competition, the D/B/T project in Thermal Design that was discussed last year at ASEE, and the D/B/T competitions in Engineering Design.


It is our task, as instructors, to "design" design activities for our students. Pahl and Beitz describe the design process as being composed of four sections, (1) Clarify the Task, (2) Conceptual Design, (3) Embodiment Design, and (4) Detail Design [1]. Whatever design structure is followed, we, as educators, must include all of these areas when we assign student design activities.

Clarify the Task: In order for students to learn to Clarify the Task, we need to provide them with activities that help them to define the problem and produce product specifications. The students must also learn the appropriate tools for producing good specifications. These tools include House of Quality, Voice of the Customer, Affinity Diagrams, Interrelationship Diagraphs, and many others. We may have to attend workshops to learn about these tools, because we probably did not study these during the pursuit of our advanced degrees.

Conceptual Design: An excellent example of conceptual design is the landing of men on the moon. John Houbolt first thought of the Lunar Orbital Module (LOM) approach and then spent a lot of time and effort trying to sell this "obviously great" idea. At the time the two concepts for landing men on the moon were the Earth Orbit Rendezvous (EOR) and the direct ascent which was similar to the Jules Verne type of rocket approach to the moon. It should be noted that Houbolt estimated the weights of the different phases of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous in his initial concepts. These weights were so amazingly low that several NASA scientists actually accused John Houbolt of lying. "’Your figures lie!’ shouted Mercury designer Maxime Faget. A more subdued Wernher von Braun simply shook his head, saying ’No, that’s no good’"[2].

This is conceptual design. During this phase of the design project the design team should investigate other concepts or alternatives. If you are designing an airplane this is when you

Dekker, D. L. (1999, June), Design/Build/Test Projects Are Not All Created Equal Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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