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Evaluating the Implementation of Design Heuristic Cards in an Industry Sponsored Capstone Design Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Developing the Design Skillset

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.544.1 - 24.544.16



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Paper Authors

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Daria A. Kotys-Schwartz University of Colorado, Boulder


Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Shanna Daly is an Assistant Research Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research focuses on idea generation, design strategies, design ethnography, creativity instruction, and engineering practitioners who return to graduate school. She teaches design and entrepreneurship courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her work is often cross-disciplinary, collaborating with colleagues from engineering, education, psychology, and industrial design.

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Seda McKIlligan Iowa State University Orcid 16x16


Daniel Knight University of Colorado, Boulder

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Dr. Daniel Knight is the Program Assessment and Research Associate with the Design Center Colorado in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science at University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Knight's duties include assessment, program evaluation, education research, and teambuilding for the Center's hands-on, industry-sponsored design projects. Dr. Knight's research interests are in assessment, teamwork, K-12, and engineering for developing communities.

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Ms. Madeline Polmear is an undergraduate research assistant for the Design Center Colorado in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Ms. Polmear's responsibilities include helping with assessment and education research. Ms. Polmear is a junior in environmental engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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Using Design Heuristics to Develop Concept Generation Skills in an Industry Sponsored Capstone Design CourseConcept generation is a key skill for success in capstone design courses. Yet, this skill is rarelyemphasized in traditional design courses. The present study investigates the introduction ofDesign Heuristics to facilitate expanded concept generation in an applied setting, a capstonedesign course in mechanical engineering charged with developing real-world projects for payingindustry clients.Design Heuristics are cognitive prompts that enable exploration of the design space during conceptgeneration. There are 77 Design Heuristics strategies, validated by research, and represented on aseparate card in a deck. Each card includes a description of the heuristic, an abstract imagedepicting the application of the heuristic, and two product sketches showing how the heuristic isevident in existing consumer products. In this study, we explored design teams’ use of theDesign Heuristics as well as the success of teams during concept generation as a whole.Participants in the study were 120 upper division students enrolled in a year-long, team-based,industry-sponsored capstone design course in mechanical engineering. Students developedprojects for industry clients with support from faculty Project Directors. Students were trained onapplying the Design Heuristic cards during class. Feedback on the Design Heuristics cards wascollected and concept generation progress was assessed via pre, mid, and post surveys ofstudents, Industry Clients, and Faculty Directors.Considering the success of concept generation as a whole, results from triangulated ratingsindicated that clients, faculty, and students expressed satisfaction for the concept generationphase of the project at the end of the year with regards to the quantity (combined mean = 3.91/5),creativity (combined mean = 3.90/5), and diversity of ideas (combined mean = 3.93/5) generatedwithin the teams. One faculty director commented, “It would be difficult to improve their finalproduct. They had an incredible array of ideas and were able to implement most of them.” Withregards to Design Heuristics, one student commented, “Design Heuristics was a really interestingfacet of the project. This was really fun and if it could be expanded that would be helpful,however, with limited time it seemed to be balanced well.”Suggestions for improvement in concept generation focused on generating an even wider rangeof ideas. One Faculty Director commented, “They seemed a little hesitant to throw out ideas orthey would rally behind a single idea versus a brainstorm. They seemed like they wanted ananswer versus a list of options.” One industry client wished the team would have, “come up withat least 5 ideas that the company mentor and customer had not thought of.” Similarly, onestudent team member suggested the team should have, “thought outside of the box more,considered wilder ideas prior to latching on to a design path.” Further tips for thinking outsidethe box included more research, less defensiveness around personal preferences for ideas, andmore time using Design Heuristics. Additional results and conclusions will be discussed in thepaper.

Kotys-Schwartz, D. A., & Daly, S. R., & McKIlligan, S., & Knight, D., & Polmear, M. (2014, June), Evaluating the Implementation of Design Heuristic Cards in an Industry Sponsored Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20435

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