Asee peer logo

Development of a Simplified Method for Representing Technological Systems for Non-Engineers

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Promoting Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.418.1 - 24.418.22



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


John Krupczak Hope College

visit author page

Professor of Engineering, Hope College, Holland, Michigan. Former Chair of the ASEE Technological Literacy Division. Former Chair of the ASEE Liberal Education Division. Senior Fellow CASEE, National Academy of Engineering, 2008-2010.

visit author page


Lauren Aprill Hope College

visit author page

Engineering Student, Hope College, Holland, Michigan 49423

visit author page


Daniel J. Langholz

visit author page

Engineering student at Hope College, Holland, Michigan

visit author page

Download Paper |


Development of a Simplified Method for Representing Function Structures of Technological SystemsAbstractA challenge in promoting engineering and technological literacy is the need to convey the majoraspects of technological systems to an audience that has a limited pre-existing knowledge ofengineering principles. Visual aids such diagrams are helpful in summarizing key features oftechnological systems. However in survey courses of modern technology for non-engineers, themethods and conventions used must be consistent across a broad spectrum of commontechnologies including automobiles, structures such as bridges, and electronics. This workdescribes the development of a set of techniques to describe how technological systems work byfocusing on the function structures of technological system. Non-engineers can learn thismethod in a limited amount of time and a diverse range of technological products can berepresented. The method avoids the creation of ad hoc diagrams for each system and is based onthe engineering design technique of functional analysis or functional decomposition. This classictechnique is modified to emphasize the description of the functions carried out by existingsystem components rather than functions to be achieved through the design process. The methodutilizes the convention of representing technological systems as transforming specified inputsinto expected outputs. Inputs and outputs are treated as flows of material, energy, or information.Conventional functional analysis is extended to include force as a system flow. Time-dependence of system behavior is accommodated. Icons similar to conventional schematicsymbols are utilized to provide visual references and cues. This technique reflects the type ofthinking used by engineers; however prerequisite background knowledge or use of extensivemathematics is not required. Initial results from using this adaptation of functional analysis in acourse for non-engineers show an increase in technological and engineering literacy among thepilot audience.

Krupczak, J., & Aprill, L., & Langholz, D. J. (2014, June), Development of a Simplified Method for Representing Technological Systems for Non-Engineers Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20309

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015