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Gathering and Synthesizing Information During the Development of User Requirements and Engineering Specifications

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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

Trends in Engineering Education 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.639.1 - 24.639.9



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Paper Authors


Ibrahim Mohedas University of Michigan

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Ibrahim Mohedas is currently a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the design of medical devices for resource-limited settings, particularly related to the use of design ethnography in developing these technologies. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin in 2011.

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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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Kathleen H. Sienko University of Michigan

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Kathleen H. Sienko is a Miller Faculty Scholar and associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan (UM). She earned her Ph.D. in 2007 in medical engineering and bioastronautics from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, and holds an S.M. in aeronautics & astronautics from MIT and a B.S. in materials engineering from the University of Kentucky. She directs both the Sensory Augmentation and Rehabilitation Laboratory (SARL) and the Laboratory for Innovation in Global Health Technology (LIGHT). SARL focuses on the design, development, and evaluation of medical devices, especially for balance-impaired populations such as individuals with vestibular loss or advanced age. LIGHT focuses on the co-creative design of frugal innovations to address healthcare challenges in resource-limited settings. Prof. Sienko has led efforts at the University of Michigan to incorporate the constraints of global health technologies within engineering design at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is the recipient of a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, a Teaching Innovation Prize from the UM Provost, and a UM Undergraduate Teaching Award. While at MIT, she was a winner of the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition.

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ERM - RESEARCH PAPER Gathering and synthesizing information during the development of user requirements and engineering specificationsGathering and synthesizing information are crucial aspects of design, especially in thedevelopment of user requirements and translation to engineering specifications. The processes ofinformation and data gathering and synthesis are unique to technical engineering problemsolving. Engineering coursework tends to emphasize summary writing, in which students mustdevelop an idea based on information they are provided. In design work, however, students mustengage in a process similar to explanatory writing, in which decisions are justified with data orinformation gathered and synthesized by the students themselves. This advanced informationprocessing task is often further complicated by conflicting information, questionable datasources, and advanced technical topics. Studies of student designers have shown that more timespent gathering information has been positively correlated with final design quality, and thatexperts spend more time gathering information than novices. While previous studies havefocused on the collection of information during design, few studies have looked at how studentssynthesize and then use the information collected.A pilot study was conducted with six design teams comprising twenty-seven senior mechanicaland biomedical engineering students in order to gain a better understanding of how engineeringstudents collect, synthesize, and use information during the development of user requirements fortheir capstone design project. Student design teams were asked to write-up user requirementdevelopment plans that represented what information sources they would consult in order todefine their user requirements. These plans were then compared to the students’ actual userrequirements presented during the first and second design reviews. Semi-structured interviewswere then conducted with four design teams in order to better understand the differences betweenstudents’ plans and execution. The user requirement plans, both design reviews, and interviewtranscriptions were combined for analysis. A comparative analysis showed that studentsoriginally planned to gather information from many sources and synthesize this information todevelop user requirements however, in practice, they focused on a much smaller number ofinformation sources compared with the information sources identified during the planning stage.Furthermore, students made little indication that they combined multiple sources to justify theiruser requirements focusing instead on a single information source without justifying thispreference. These results suggest that while students realize, in theory, the value of gathering andsynthesizing diverse information, they reverted to a more simplistic one-to-one matching of userrequirements and information sources.

Mohedas, I., & Daly, S. R., & Sienko, K. H. (2014, June), Gathering and Synthesizing Information During the Development of User Requirements and Engineering Specifications Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20530

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