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The Effect Of Student Tablet Pc Use On Their Attitudes Towards And Understanding Of Conceptual Design

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1413.1 - 12.1413.14



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Paper Authors


Hien Nguyen Pennsylvania State University

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Hien Nguyen is a doctoral student in Instructional Systems at Penn State University. She has a B.S. in Computer Science from Texas A&M University. She is currently a Research Assistant in the Engineering Design program and the Engineering Instruction Services at Penn State. Her research interest includes the use of digital ink technologies in learning, problem based learning, collaborative learning in cross-cultural context and learning communities.

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John Wise Pennsylvania State University

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John Wise is the Associate Director of the Regional Educational Lab (REL) Mid-Atlantic, an arm of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). He holds a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems from Penn State.

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Sven Bilen Pennsylvania State University

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SVEN G. BILÉN is an Associate Professor of Engineering Design, Electrical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering at Penn State. His educational research interests include developing techniques for enhancing engineering design education, teaching technological entrepreneurship, global product design, and systems design. He is course chair for ED&G 100: Introduction to Engineering Design. He is member of IEEE, AIAA, AGU, ASEE, URSI, and Sigma Xi.

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Richard Devon Pennsylvania State University

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Devon is Professor of Engineering Design and the Director of the Engineering Design Program in the School for Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs at The Pennsylvania State University, where he has received several teaching awards. He has directed both the Pennsylvania Space Grant Program and the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Penn State. Devon currently focuses on design education, global programs, and design topics such as design ethics, innovative and integrated design, and conceptual design communications.

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

The Effect of Student Tablet PC Use on Their Understanding of and Attitude toward Conceptual Design Abstract

Engineers who work in innovative design spaces during conceptual design have very different CAD and graphics needs than those who work in more conventional design spaces such as those of detail design.1,2 They need rapid, parsed communications, which support rather than constrain creativity. We have been examining digital ink technologies such as digital ink pens, SMART Boards, and Tablet PCs (TPCs). We have been exploring these since 2004 in the context of a program offering an introductory engineering design course to about one thousand students a year and upper division courses in innovative and global design. We will report on our initial examination of using TPCs in student design teams.

This paper reports on a nonrandomized control-group pretest–posttest study conducted at Penn State University. Half of a first-year design class used TPCs and half used traditional paper and pencil for part of the semester; the groups then switched tools. It is hypothesized that TPC use by engineering students will have a positive effect on their understanding of and attitude towards conceptual design. An instrument designed to collect information on student awareness of the design process was developed and administered as a pre- and post-test. Results of this test will be reported, and suggestions for further research provided.


Conceptual design is a very important stage in engineering design. It is “the thought process of generating and implementing the fundamental ideas that characterize a product or system”.3 A product or system’s success depends heavily on activities in this stage. This is where innovative ideas are created and evaluated. There are different phases within conceptual design itself, most commonly referred to as user needs identification, concept generation, concept analysis, and concept selection. In the context of the complete engineering design process, conceptual design comes after problem development, and precedes embodiment design and detail design. Conceptual design is unique and very much different from detail design. Therefore, communication in the conceptual design phase is also very much different from communication in the detail design phase. In conceptual design, “the amount of information flowing, the diverse nature of that information, and the speed at which it flows is far greater than in detailed design.”1 For capturing this information, flexible graphical tools are needed. Regardless of the importance of conceptual design, design education tends to focus more on the detail design and much less on conceptual design. We find that it is important to help engineering students understand conceptual design, its importance, and its value in the engineering design process and be able to enjoy it and appreciate its importance. One of the means for enhancing students’ understanding and enjoyment is through student use of tools that are rich in potential to facilitate conceptual design.

The TPC is one such tool that can enhance conceptual design and conceptual design communication. With its pen-based features, the TPC opens a lot of possibilities for

Nguyen, H., & Wise, J., & Bilen, S., & Devon, R. (2007, June), The Effect Of Student Tablet Pc Use On Their Attitudes Towards And Understanding Of Conceptual Design Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2899

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