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Investigating How Design Concepts Evolve in Engineering Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Professional Skills development in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


John Mark Dawidow Harding University

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John Dawidow is a recent graduate of Harding University, receiving his bachelor's in biomedical engineering. His research interests involve investigating how students think about design considerations in relation to social and technical dimensions.

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James L. Huff Harding University Orcid 16x16

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James Huff is an assistant professor of engineering at Harding University, where he primarily teaches multidisciplinary engineering design and electrical engineering. His research interests are aligned with how engineering students develop in their career identity while also developing as whole persons. James received his Ph.D. in engineering education and his his M.S. in electrical and computer engineering, both from Purdue University. He received his bachelor's in computer engineering at Harding University.

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Keelin Siomha Leahy University of Limerick Orcid 16x16

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Keelin Leahy is a lecturer of Technology Education at the University of Limerick. Keelin received her PhD from the University of Limerick in 2009, which focused on approaches for design activities in second level education. Keelin's main research interests include developing approaches for the development of creativity and design based activities and pedagogy. Keelin lectures in the areas of Design for Teachers, 3D CAD Modelling, Wood Design and Technology, Wood Processing Practice and Safety.

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A critical aspect to engineering in the workplace is the ability to design solutions to ill-structured problems. Prior research has shown that such solutions are highly effective when they are evaluated in relation to multiple design concepts. However, a documented problem among engineering students is that they tend to fixate on their initial design ideas rather than branching out and continuing to develop new concepts. In order to address the issue of fixation, 77 Design Heuristics has been established as a method to cultivate ideation among engineers and engineering students. This method for generating design concepts comes in the form of 77 cards, each with a different cognitive prompt for generating a solution (e.g., reduce material, flatten). Through the use of the 77 cards, engineers and engineering students are able to expand their horizons of possible design ideas and develop many unique concepts.

Using a freshman engineering course, we integrated the 77 Design Heuristic cards to document how initial ideas develop into final concepts. We analyzed 12 first-year engineering students that were distributed in three different design teams, in order to better understand how they responded to the use of this instructional tool. Our findings demonstrate key influences that did foster idea fluency (Theme 1: Influence on Design Concepts) but also ways that students attached to certain concepts throughout the design process (Theme 2: Resilient Concepts).

Dawidow, J. M., & Huff, J. L., & Leahy, K. S. (2016, June), Investigating How Design Concepts Evolve in Engineering Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25477

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