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Mistake Proofing As The Base For Teaching Principles Of Engineering Problem Solving.

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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

Nontechnical Skills for Engineering Technology Students

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.916.1 - 9.916.10



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Zbigniew Prusak

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

Session 1348

Mistake-Proofing as the Base for Teaching Principles of Engineering Problem Solving

Zbigniew Prusak Central Connecticut State University


This paper describes how to employ principles of Mistake-Proofing in the teaching of engineering problem solving. The problem solving process starts with an intentionally brief introduction to the concepts of variability, robustness and sensitivity. Through solving a number of problems of increasing complexity or conceptual difficulty, students develop a list of mistake- proofing principles. Development of the list is based on the use of physical and chemical principles as tools for conceptually solving given problems. All solutions are conceptual only and have a goal of mistake-proofing the designs and processes in question. The solutions are then classified according to their mistake-proofing robustness. Student work is intentionally guided by the instructor, and switches between individual work, small team work, and brainstorming done together by the entire class. Strong emphasis is put on process of defining goals of the redesign process, and critical description of shortcomings of the present stage of product or process design. A particular emphasis however, is put on knowledge of scientific principles which may provide ideal solutions to the problem at hand. In that respect, mistake-proofing of certain designs based on their geometry, as well as production processes prove to be fairly easy to understand and students are able to come up with a variety of solutions. Other advantages, limitations and disadvantages of using Mistake-Proofing as the base for teaching principles of problem solving are also provided and discussed from perspectives of faculty and students. A number of common and specialized devices used in exercises for defining physical principles underlying an engineering problem at hand are also listed in the paper.

1. Introduction

"Problem solving" – is it use of any method (scientific or not) to create something new, something improved; or is it use of sophisticated scientific methods and tools? Who are good problem solvers? Are they skilled users of sophisticated methods, or those who achieve improved or novel solutions using even simplistic methods, or those who employ existing solutions based on a scientific principle pertinent to the problem at hand? An important skill of problem solving is also not solving of what is not a problem. But are the students taught methods of recognizing a problem at hand, relating it to the basic physical and chemical principles, and following with creation of solutions based as directly as possible on these principles? For example, in a manufacturing operation a disc-like shape part is sometimes

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

Prusak, Z. (2004, June), Mistake Proofing As The Base For Teaching Principles Of Engineering Problem Solving. Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12700

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