June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Educational Research and Methods
26.1140.1 - 26.1140.20
Modeling the Complexity of Structured Engineering Design ProblemsIn an increasingly globalized and technological world, engineering workforces of sufficient sizeand quality are essential for addressing challenges such as climate change, world hunger, andenergy demand. Future generations of engineers will have to identify big problems and designinnovative solutions. To prepare young people for solving challenging issues, researchers andeducators must provide students with environments in which they can participate in authenticengineering design problems.To do so, many engineering curricula include “capstone” courses where senior engineeringstudents engage in authentic design . These courses are developed for more senior engineeringstudents because it is commonly thought that students have the skills to engage in authenticdesign challenges only towards the end of their undergraduate education. In recent years,because of the high attrition rate of engineering majors after the first year , some institutionshave implemented courses with design opportunities for first-year students. However, these“cornerstone” courses vary greatly in terms of content and approach  since it is not clear howto teach design to students who do not yet have basic engineering skills and knowledge.Thus, a key issue for the field of engineering education is to understand how to create authenticengineering design problems of varying degrees of complexity, so that students can participate inauthentic engineering design throughout their undergraduate careers. There are, of course, manyaspects of an engineering design problem that contribute to its complexity, but we focus on onecritical component of the difficulty of an engineering problem—the complexity of the designfunction.In this paper, we will describe a method for investigating the cognitive and mathematicalstructures of engineering design problems developed for students. Using a virtual design problemfrom a first year engineering course  as an example, we identified three components thatcontribute to the complexity of this design problem: (1) the number of design variables, (2) theamount of information students have about the design variables, and (3) the number of solutionsthat satisfy customer requests. Then, we quantified the problem solving process and developed aset of design functions that model real-world design problems with complex, dependentrelationships. This model serves as a basis for measuring and adjusting the complexity ofstructured design problems.References A. J. Dutson, R. H. Rodd, S. P. Magleby, and C. D. Sorensen, “A Review of Literature on Teaching Engineering Design Through Project- Oriented Capstone Courses,” J. Eng. Educ., vol. 86, no. 1, pp. 17–28, 1997. P. A. Daempfle, “An analysis of the high attrition rates among first year college science, math, and engineering majors,” J. Coll. Student Retent. Res. Theory Pract., vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 37–52, 2003. S. Sheppard, M. Engineering, and R. Jenison, “Examples of Freshman Design Education,” Int. J. Eng. Educ., vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 248–261, 2012. N. C. Chesler, G. Arastoopour, C. M. D’Angelo, E. A. Bagley, and D. W. Shaffer, “Design of professional practice simulator for educating and motivating first-year engineering students.,” Adv. Eng. Educ., 2012.
Arastoopour, G., & Shaffer, D. W., & Chesler, N. C., & Collier, W., & Linderoth, J. (2015, June), Measuring the Complexity of Simulated Engineering Design Problems Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24477
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