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Prototype Exemplars: The Path to Effective Design or to Design Fixation?

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Design Pedagogy and Curriculum 2

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1004.1 - 23.1004.19



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Paper Authors


Thomas F. Schubert Jr. P.E. University of San Diego

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Thomas F. Schubert, Jr. received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

He is currently a Professor of electrical engineering at the University of San Diego, and came there as a founding member of the engineering faculty in 1987. He previously served on the electrical engineering faculty at the University of Portland, Portland OR and Portland State University, Portland OR and on the engineering staff at Hughes Aircraft Company, Los Angeles, CA.

Prof. Schubert is a member of IEEE and the ASEE and is a registered professional engineer in Oregon. He is the 2012 winner of the Robert G. Quinn award for excellence in engineering education. He currently serves as the faculty advisor for the Kappa Eta chapter of Eta Kappa Nu at the University of San Diego

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Frank G Jacobitz University of San Diego

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Frank G. Jacobitz was born in Göttingen, Germany, in 1968. He received the Diploma in physics from Georg-August Universität, Göttingen, Germany, in 1993, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, in 1995 and 1998, respectively. He has been with the University of San Diego, San Diego, CA, since 2003, where he is currently a Professor of mechanical engineering. From 1998 to 2003, he was an Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering with the University of California, Riverside. He has also been a visitor with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Aix-Marseille Université, France. His research interests include direct numerical simulations of turbulent flows with shear, rotation, and stratification, as well as bio-fluid mechanical problems at the microscale. Prof. Jacobitz is a Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Physical Society (APS), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG). He currently
serves as the faculty advisor to the student section of the ASME at the University of San Diego and on the Council and Executive Committee of the Pacific Division of the AAAS.

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Michael S. Morse University of San Diego

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Dr. Morse has a BS and MS in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University and a Ph.D. from Clemson University in Engineering. He is currently a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego.

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Truc T. Ngo University of San Diego

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Dr. Truc Ngo is an Assistant Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of San Diego.  Her research interests are in the areas of green materials and processes involving polymers and composites, organic semiconductors, and supercritical fluids.

Dr. Ngo received her Bachelor’s in 1997 and Doctor of Philosophy in 2001, both in Chemical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Before joining the University of San Diego, she had worked as a Senior Process Engineer at Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, Oregon and Santa Clara, California for nearly three years. She had also taught in the Engineering & Technologies Department at San Diego City College as an Associate Professor for five years, where she established the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program.

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Prototype Exemplars: The Path to Effective Design or to Design Fixation?AbstractAn investigation into the impact of the presence of a prototype exemplar in an introductorydesign experience is described. The design experience occurred early in an Introduction toEngineering course following a single lecture on the engineering design process. The design activity,necessarily simple at this stage, consisted of designing, building, and testing a drag racer, constructedfrom LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT parts and powered by a single rubber band. Studentsparticipating in the design experience were divided into two functional groups: laboratory sectionswhere a prototype exemplar was present and laboratory sections where no example was provided.Assessment of the prototype exemplar impact was accomplished through a two-pronged approach.First, through photographs and performance data taken at multiple stages in the design experienceand analyzed by the faculty, and second, through a twelve-statement survey given to all students. Inaddition to assigning numerical values (on a scale from 1 to 6) for their responses to the surveystatements, students were asked to respond with short, written statements.This study is in its second year. Survey results from the first year indicated similar backgroundsbetween control and exemplar groups as well as similar internal team interaction. First year surveyresults also indicated that the prospect of an example (control group) had greater value than theexemplar group valued the actual example.At the end of the initial design phase and two subsequent redesign phases, photographic evidencewas evaluated to determine the presence of five distinct features of the prototype exemplar: three ofthe features were functional and two features essentially cosmetic. While the primary purpose of thephotographic evidence is to determine whether the presence of a prototype exemplar leads to betterfinal designs or to student fixation on particular design features, the data will be evaluated todetermine any correlations between feature presence and performance. First year photographicevidence proved somewhat inconclusive due primarily to inconsistencies in data collectionprocedures and inconsistencies in design constraint communication to the student groups. Secondyear improvements in each of those areas have been put into place. Primary second-year datacollection is occurring September 17-20, 2012.

Schubert, T. F., & Jacobitz, F. G., & Morse, M. S., & Ngo, T. T. (2013, June), Prototype Exemplars: The Path to Effective Design or to Design Fixation? Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22389

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