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Evaluating the Impact of Teaching Function in an Engineering Design Curriculum

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Robert L. Nagel James Madison University

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Dr. Robert Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. Dr. Nagel joined the James Madison University after completing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. He has a B.S. from Trine University and a M.S. from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, both in mechanical engineering. Since joining James Madison University, Nagel has helped to develop and teach the six course engineering design sequence which represents the spine of the curriculum for the Department of Engineering. The research and teaching interests of Dr. Nagel tend to revolve around engineering design and engineering design education, and in particular, the design conceptualization phase of the design process. He has performed research with the US Army Chemical Corps, General Motors Research and Development Center, and the US Air Force Academy, and he has received grants from the NSF, the EPA, and General Motors Corporation.

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Matt Robert Bohm University of Louisville


Julie S Linsey Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Julie S. Linsey is an Associate Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technological. Dr. Linsey received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas. Her research area is design cognition including systematic methods and tools for innovative design with a particular focus on concept generation and design-by-analogy. Her research seeks to understand designers’ cognitive processes with the goal of creating better tools and approaches to enhance engineering design. She has authored over 100 technical publications including over thirty journal papers, five book chapters, and she holds two patents.

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Functional modeling is often covered as a critical element of the engineering design process is engineering design texts, but little empirical data clearly demonstrates that functional modeling improves engineering designs or that teaching functional modeling makes students better designers. The overall objective of this project is to determine the impact of teaching function on engineering students’ design synthesis abilities. Two studies are being performed as a part of this project: (1) a longitudinal study following students through their sophomore, junior, and senior year following some being taught functional modeling, while others not, and (2) a yearly study looking at capstone project quality of students from cohorts either taught or not taught functional modeling. This paper focuses on preliminary data collected as a part of the longitudinal study using a functional modeling skills quiz to assess students’ ability to understand and represent a system. In particular, a functional modeling skill assessment quiz is being investigated for its ability to discern the extent of a student’s function knowledge. Two student groups are studied, one taught functional modeling and function enumeration and a second taught only function enumeration. The results provide promise that the skills quiz is working as desired; however, work is yet needed to develop an adequate scoring technique.

Nagel, R. L., & Bohm, M. R., & Linsey, J. S. (2016, June), Evaluating the Impact of Teaching Function in an Engineering Design Curriculum Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26764

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