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Do Not Optimize, Solve The Problem Development Of Critical Thinking Skills In Dfm Small Projects

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ET Design Projects

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.450.1 - 8.450.12

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Paper Authors

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Zbigniew Prusak

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

Session 3548

Do Not Optimize, Solve the Problem – Development of Critical Thinking Skills in DFM Small Projects

Zbigniew Prusak Central Connecticut State University


This paper describes activities, requirements and assessment techniques used in small projects in Design for Manufacturing course. The projects are assigned to teams of 3 to 7 students, and the vast majority of work is done in class under specific time constraints. The team size and time constraints for each problem on hand try to imitate real work environment of time-constrained meetings that must end with producing solutions. Successful realization of the projects requires knowledge of wide range of physical, chemical, and to some extend, biological effects. A strong emphasis is put on process of defining goals and objectives, and critical description of present state of design or process, including product liability. A particular emphasis however is put on knowledge of scientific principles which may provide idealistic solutions to the problem at hand. Knowledge of engineering principles of problem solving and evaluation of possible solutions is emphasized in activities related to closing of each project. Results of up to date projects point at several perennial problems, such as: formulation of engineering contradictions and solving them, development of metrics as well as choice of tools and procedures to evaluate final solutions. These problems were observed in almost all students and groups. The process of formulating and solving engineering contradictions proved to be the one requiring most guidance on part of course instructor. Some in-class exercises designed to improve student’s ability in defining core of engineering problem are described in the paper. Intentionally, computational skills are not emphasized in the projects. Solutions aiming at optimization of the present design are forbidden. Some proven approaches to enhance group outputs are also described in the paper.

1. Introduction

“The simpler the better” is preached in engineering schools all over the world. Easy to say, but how to make students’ minds follow that path of thinking when the vast majority of their engineering learning effort is spent on learning mathematical principles with a goal of using them for optimization and numerical assessment. Consequently, the students are examined and graded almost exclusively on performance that is based on the mathematical knowledge, memorization of procedures and data. Despite its abstract nature, mathematics based engineering knowledge is easily quantifiable, and there is a lot of historical experience available in teaching it. On the other hand little learning time and grading effort is accorded to development of creativity, inventiveness and learning logical methods of designing. It is somewhat understandable, since the latter group is difficult to quantify, elusive in teaching and in assessment of student learning.

Prusak, Z. (2003, June), Do Not Optimize, Solve The Problem Development Of Critical Thinking Skills In Dfm Small Projects Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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