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Subjective Evaluation In Engineering Design

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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

Teaching Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1134.1 - 9.1134.10



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Paper Authors

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Richard Bannerot

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

Session 2125

Subjective Evaluation in Engineering Design Richard Bannerot Department of Mechanical Engineering University of Houston

Abstract Engineering students may not receive sufficient experience and help in making and understanding subjective decisions. Two studies are presented that imply engineering students have poor subjective evaluation skills. The artifacts resulting from two design studies were evaluated by two different classes of sophomore engineering students and their instructor. One study represented innovative design, and the artifact was designed and fabricated by teams composed of four students each. The other study represented routine design and was addressed by individual students working alone. Both the instructor and students, acting individually, evaluated both the team and individually produced design artifacts. Compared with the instructor’s evaluations of the artifacts, the students undervalued the best artifacts and greatly overvalued the worst artifacts. Most demonstrated very little discrimination in their evaluations. However, the better designers were also better “graders” in that their evaluations more closely followed those of the instructor. Self-evaluations followed the same trends with many of the poorest designers grossly overvaluing their own artifacts. The results indicated that designing ability correlates positively with critical evaluation skills, and it is proposed that the teaching of such skills should be included in design courses.


Evaluation is an important part of the design process. Most engineering design textbooks (see for example references 1-6) devote considerable attention to the evaluation process. Much of this attention is directed to concept evaluation (i.e., selection), but evaluation procedures are also provided for comparing performance and other measures. However, most evaluation is at some level subjective. In engineering design the subjectivity of decisions involving a large number of parameters is usually reduced by subdividing the “big decision” into many “smaller decisions”, e.g., Pugh concept selection process or criteria functions. In theory these subdividing processes are good, but they do not remove the subjectivity; they simply move it to another level. Engineering design textbooks normally do not provided much help for the student in making these subjective decisions except for case study examples where students may get a “feel” for the small decisions.

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

Bannerot, R. (2004, June), Subjective Evaluation In Engineering Design Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13791

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