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Designwebs: Toward The Creation Of An Interactive Navigational Tool To Assist And Support Engineering Design Learning

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design Communications

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.433.1 - 14.433.14

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Paper Authors

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Sharad Oberoi Carnegie Mellon University

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Susan Finger Carnegie Mellon University

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

DesignWebs: Towards the Creation of an Interactive Navigational Tool to assist and support Engineering Design Learning


For both student and professional design teams, knowledge generated during the design process frequently goes uncaptured, and when it is captured, it is usually poorly organized and buried in obscure documents. The design and development process requires that collaborators build and retain knowledge through discussions, creating documents and sharing artifacts. Effective capture of both semantic knowledge and episodic knowledge can have many benefits for both student and professional design teams. The key to supporting these knowledge building problems is to develop an infrastructure that supports effective knowledge management. In this paper, we describe a framework for DesignWebs, which are dynamic, navigable networks of the documents and conversations created during the design process. A DesignWeb would enable users to see evolving connections between concepts by using a navigable web-based interface that synthesizes the design knowledge from multiple sources of information.


Students working on engineering design projects bring together knowledge from different sources. They collaborate among themselves, share design knowledge, and negotiate with each other, faculty members and the client, in order to create engineering artifacts. This process often involves reuse of previous knowledge and the creation of new knowledge within the context of the problem. Such knowledge building is a key process skill that engineers need to acquire during their education.

Ideally in team projects, students co-construct the knowledge necessary to realize their designs through the process of proposing, counter-proposing, questioning, arguing, agreeing, and dissenting. A major problem student teams face is learning how to organize and share ideas. This frequently results in “requirements deviations” where the interpretation of interactions by two or more team members may not only be different, but conflicting1. Detecting such problems as they occur has advantages for the team and implications on the project’s success. Actively engaging in navigating, searching and structuring knowledge as it is generated can improve the quality of knowledge sharing within groups, and possibly reduce the occurrence of requirements deviations.

Students often find it difficult to locate the right piece of information from the e-mails, reference literature, discussion transcripts, status updates, time-sheets and final reports pertaining to a design project. The situation is complicated by the evolving nature of the decisions, leading to multiple versions of documents with contradictory information. Lack of support infrastructure to help locate the information embedded in documents related to an engineering artifact in real-time is a commonly experienced problem. Being novices in design, students also lack the perspective to structure and manage documents that they generate and use. Hence even the opportunity for them to recognize, formulate and solve problems cannot meet all the desired objectives and students often find it difficult to keep track of the design evolution.

Oberoi, S., & Finger, S. (2009, June), Designwebs: Toward The Creation Of An Interactive Navigational Tool To Assist And Support Engineering Design Learning Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

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