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Measuring The Impact Of Component Functional Templates In A Sophomore Level Engineering Design Class

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Design in Freshman and Sophomore Courses

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.878.1 - 13.878.14



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Paper Authors

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Daniel Abbott University of Missouri

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Katie Lough University of Missouri

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

Measuring the Impact of Component Functional Templates in a Sophomore Level Engineering Design Class

Abstract This paper describes one experiment to test the utility of component functional templates as a functional modeling instruction aid. Previous research by the authors has shown that problems exist with students describing functional representations of a system or subsystems. Component functional templates were derived as a means of addressing this ongoing problem. The experiment was performed on a section of sophomore level undergraduate students and consisted of both a pre and post-test. During the pre-test, the students were divided into small groups of two or three and given the task of creating a functional model for a small consumer product. The lesson prior to the task was based only on a review of the functional modeling lesson taught in a freshman design course. After the pre-test, another lecture was provided that covered the use of the component functional templates. Next, for the post-test, the students were again asked to create a functional model of the same product. It was hypothesized that the use of the templates would provide better results in the quality and accuracy of the models when compared to the models produced without the use of the templates. The results of the experiment confirmed the hypothesis that the component function templates assist novice design students to create higher quality functional models and offer a foundational basis for further experimentation and evaluation.

1.0 Introduction The marriage of product form and function has long been a critical problem faced by practicing designers and engineers. “By mapping customer needs first to function and then to form, more solutions may be systematically generated to solve the design problem1.” More solutions imply a greater chance of an exceptional idea, or combination of ideas that can be built upon to form a better final design. This enhanced solution space is provided by describing a design task in abstract terms through functional descriptions instead of physical components. Decomposing a product or system and determining required functions or objectives, set forth either by a formal statement of the needs of the customer or an analysis of product discussion and associated tasks, is a common design approach used in current university courses and texts1-5.

Function independent of form has many diverse relevant engineering applications including process modeling6, automated concept generation7, searchable design knowledge databases8, modular design9, multi-level risk analysis10, and also business modeling with risk assessments11, among others. More recently, student teams in a graduate level modern product design course at a nationally recognized engineering university were assigned tasks of developing robot models for an intelligent ground vehicle competition and also for retrieval and disposal of explosive ordinance devices utilizing the functional modeling methodology. The resulting models provided adequate functional descriptions of the systems under question, as indicated by the course instructors, but many of the individual students in the groups performing the analysis were experienced and knowledgeable, well versed in the necessary processes such as gathering of customer needs and function chain aggregation. At least six of the nine

Abbott, D., & Lough, K. (2008, June), Measuring The Impact Of Component Functional Templates In A Sophomore Level Engineering Design Class Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3553

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