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Supporting Novice Engineers in Idea Generation using Design Heuristics

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Design Tools and Skill Development

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Laura R. Murphy University of Michigan

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Laura is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is passionate about understanding how design can impact the human condition. Her research surrounds front-end design and how every student can engage with engineering in their own way. She is the co-founder and CEO of Adapt Design, a disability design company creating beautiful products that facilitate emotional and physical independence for people with disabilities. Engineering provides a technical background to demonstrate the social impact possible through design.

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Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Shanna Daly is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton (2003) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University (2008). Her research focuses on strategies for design innovations through divergent and convergent thinking as well as through deep needs and community assessments using design ethnography, and translating those strategies to design tools and education. She teaches design and entrepreneurship courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, focusing on front-end design processes.

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Seda McKilligan Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. McKilligan is an Associate Professor of Industrial Design. She teaches design studios and lecture courses on developing creativity and research skills. Her current research focuses on identifying impacts of different factors on ideation of designers and engineers, developing instructional materials for design ideation, and foundations of innovation. She often conducts workshops on design thinking to a diverse range of groups including student and professional engineers and faculty member from different universities. She received her PhD degree in Design Science in 2010 from University of Michigan. She is also a faculty in Human Computer Interaction Graduate Program and the ISU Site Co-Director for Center for e-Design.

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Colleen M. Seifert University of Michigan

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Colleen M. Seifert is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and psychology at Yale University. She was an ASEE postdoctoral fellow at the University of California – San Diego and the Navy Personnel Research Development Center. Her research interests center on learning, memory, and creativity.

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Design Heuristics are a research-based tool developed to help expand the number and diversity of ideas developed by designers during idea generation. They were developed by analyzing idea generation processes and outcomes of designers with a range in expertise. As brainstorming is a commonly used ideation technique across engineering education and practice, our research sought to compare the qualities of ideas generated by incoming engineering freshman using both techniques—brainstorming and Design Heuristics. We also compared the outcomes generated with each technique with regards to their elaboration, creativity, diversity, and level of similarity to their first idea (a measure of design fixation).

Data collection was conducted at a workshop for 200 incoming engineering freshmen. The students were taught idea generation based on a scripted presentation prepared by the research team. First, the students were formally introduced to brainstorming. The students generated five solutions to one of two given design problems using the brainstorming method. The proctor then gave an introduction to Design Heuristics. Students generated five more solutions to the same design problem using the Design Heuristics. For each student, data includes five concepts generated via brainstorming, five concepts generated via Design Heuristics, and a self-perceptions survey. All 200 data sets were scanned and organized. From this, 20 data were randomly chosen from one of the design problems for qualitative pattern analysis aimed to focus on qualities of ideas generated using each technique.

Findings focus on patterns observed across the 10 ideas of the 20 student datasets used in this qualitative analysis. For example, one quality that appeared in many solutions to a design problem about more efficient burrito-making using the brainstorming technique was a 3D-printer whose filament was made of burrito ingredients. Further analysis presented includes other patterns related to which idea generation strategy was used. This quality analysis allows us to explore ideation in a more in-depth way than traditional ideation ratings alone (creativity, practicality, elaboration, and diversity), providing further insight into how different techniques direct thinking during design ideation.

Murphy, L. R., & Daly, S. R., & McKilligan, S., & Seifert, C. M. (2017, June), Supporting Novice Engineers in Idea Generation using Design Heuristics Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28887

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