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The Development of a DfX

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design Tools and Methodology II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1285.1 - 25.1285.11

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Paper Authors


Geoffrey Samuel Frost University of Toronto

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Geoffrey Samuel Frost is a graduate student studying biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto. He completed an undergraduate degree in engineering science at the University of Toronto. He has worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Praxis suite of engineering design courses at the University of Toronto for the past three years.

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Jason A. Foster University of Toronto

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Jason Foster is the Senior Lecturer in engineering design education within the Division of Engineering Science at the University of Toronto. Trained as a Systems Design Engineer and with industry experience in software development and management consulting, he currently teaches engineering design at the corner and capstone levels. His research focus in on scaling innovative engineering pedagogies to suit large classes, and his teaching integrates the theories of Vygotsky, Kolb, Papert, Perry, and Pugh.

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Robert Irish University of Toronto


Patricia Kristine Sheridan University of Toronto

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Patricia Kristine Sheridan is a Ph.D. candidate with the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering at the University of Toronto. She holds a B.A.Sc. and M.A.Sc. in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto. She is a member of the teaching team and a course developer for the Praxis cornerstone design courses.

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The Development of a DfXThis paper uses a historical case study to develop an understanding of how DfXs may develop.This paper begins by outlining the development of engineering design guidelines, also known as“Design For X” or “DfX”. DfXs are guidelines that engineers may use to better the outcome oftheir design process with respect to the X in question. For example, Design for Safety is acommon DfX, used to ensure an engineer’s final output minimizes the occurrence of harm tousers. The more recent case study of the Design for the Environment (DfE) provides a possiblemodel for the emergence of a DfX.Historical records for the development of DfE show a discernible pattern which can beunderstood in five basics elements that occurred in the formation of DfE guidelines. Theelements include: (1) Catalyst for Change – A Push, (2) Isolated Cases and Examples – A BraveStep Forward, (3) Developing Heuristics – A Simple Set of Rules, (4) Developing a Process – ARecipe for the Implementation of the DfX, and (5) Metrics – A Measure of Success. Separatefrom the core 5 elements, we recognized a sixth outlying element that can occur as the first orlast step in the development of a DfX. We have termed this sixth element Codes and Standards –A Push or a Pull on the DfX. Abstracting from these elements, we have generated a model thatcould apply to the development of any DfX.We hypothesize that understanding how a DfX emerges has two main values: (1) Identifyingemerging DfXs could provide corporations with a competitive edge. (2) Identifying emergingDfXs could allow engineering design researchers to better target their work. A historical exampleof a corporation that recognized, and then adopted, DfE in its early stages highlights theadvantages conferred to this corporation due to its early adoption of DfE. Similarly, byunderstanding where a DfX lies in its development, the design researcher may target their nextwork towards the cutting edge of the field.

Frost, G. S., & Foster, J. A., & Irish, R., & Sheridan, P. K. (2012, June), The Development of a DfX Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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