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Fundamentals Of A First Year Engineering Design And Communication Course: Familiarization, Functionality And Testing

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.630.1 - 9.630.12



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Paper Authors

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Daryl Caswell

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Clifton Johnston

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

Session 1793

Fundamentals of a First-Year Engineering Design and Communication Course: Familiarization, Functionality and Testing

D.J. Caswell, C.R. Johnston, O.R. Fauvel, D. Douglas, M. Eggermont Department of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering/Faculty of Engineering, University of Calgary Calgary, Alberta, CANADA


There is a large body of pedagogy surrounding the use of a common design methodology in engineering. The well known description of the design process as a series of steps from problem identification, through conceptual design to detailed design has been a standard in engineering design courses of all levels for at least 50 years. The design process does indeed document the main components of successful design. However, the ability of engineering students to grasp the significance of the steps in the design process is not ideal. In fact, it might be said that employing the standard design process is much like playing the music of Mozart: Too hard for professionals but too easy for students. Even at the professional level, blind adherence to a set procedure for design too often results in the creation of inferior products6

Much of the literature describing the loss of engineering design skills, particularly in North America, focuses on the ways in which the process might be given meaning for the students of engineering design. It is our view that the great number of pedagogical devices, case studies and design projects that have been developed over the years to demonstrate the application of the traditional design process (with sporadic levels of success) is an indication that there may be a problem with the portrayal and implementation of the design process itself. In short, the design process makes sense when taking a retrospective view of a successful design. However, it breaks down when a novice attempts to apply the process to a real design project. For example, the first design process step of determining the problem is known by every designer to be the most difficult part of design and often occurs closer to the end of the actual design process than the beginning.

We have taken on the task of developing an approach to the design process that we refer to as the “Design Trinity” of Familiarization, Functionality and Testing. The design trinity, employed in an environment of participatory inquiry 13 is intended to engage the novice designer in a way that develops a sense and rigour to their design work. It is intended to occupy a mid-point between the “man-on-the street” approach (an endless cycle of build/fail) and the highly sophisticated use of successful design methodology.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Caswell, D., & Johnston, C. (2004, June), Fundamentals Of A First Year Engineering Design And Communication Course: Familiarization, Functionality And Testing Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13515

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