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The Impact of Functional Modeling on Engineering Students' Mental Models

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Student Empathy and Human-Centered Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors

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Jacob Thomas Nelson


Julie S. Linsey Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Julie S. Linsey is an Associate Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technological. Dr. Linsey received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas. Her research area is design cognition including systematic methods and tools for innovative design with a particular focus on concept generation and design-by-analogy. Her research seeks to understand designers’ cognitive processes with the goal of creating better tools and approaches to enhance engineering design. She has authored over 100 technical publications including twenty-three journal papers, five book chapters, and she holds two patents.

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Robert L. Nagel James Madison University

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Dr. Robert Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. Dr. Nagel joined the James Madison University after completing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. He has a B.S. from Trine University and a M.S. from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, both in mechanical engineering. Since joining James Madison University, Nagel has helped to develop and teach the six course engineering design sequence which represents the spine of the curriculum for the Department of Engineering. The research and teaching interests of Dr. Nagel tend to revolve around engineering design and engineering design education, and in particular, the design conceptualization phase of the design process. He has performed research with the US Army Chemical Corps, General Motors Research and Development Center, and the US Air Force Academy, and he has received grants from the NSF, the EPA, and General Motors Corporation.

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Matt Robert Bohm Florida Polytechnic University Orcid 16x16

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Matt Bohm is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Florida Polytechnic University (Florida Poly). He joined the University in 2016 after spending 6-years as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Louisville (UofL). Bohm’s research examines the intersection of 3 distinct areas, engineering design, engineering education, and big data. Currently, Bohm has an active NSF grant under the Division of Undergraduate Education to examine the effects of systems modeling paradigms with respect to design outcomes and systems thinking and understanding. While at UofL, Bohm was primarily responsible for overseeing the Mechanical Engineering Department’s capstone design program. Prior to his position at UofL, Bohm was a visiting researcher at Oregon State University (OSU) after completing his PhD at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T) in 2009. While at S&T, Bohm was also a Lecturer for the Department of Interdisciplinary Engineering and was responsible for coordinating and teaching design and mechanics related courses.

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Engineering continues to seek to teach our students more complex skills that will enhance their careers. This paper presents first steps in developing an instrument to measure a students’ mental model (understanding of how a device works). The ability to think holistically and effectively pull from an interdisciplinary knowledge base is critical for engineers and companies to design effective systems. Functional modeling is believed to assist engineers in developing systems thinking skills and in porting their knowledge of one system to a new device with similar functionality. In this study, students were asked to draw basic component layouts for two functionally analogous devices: a home hair dryer and a car radiator. Students then learned functional modeling and were again asked to draw component layouts for these two devices. Results show two important facts critical to future work. First, students are more familiar with the functionality of a hair dryer, but not of a device with similar functionality, a car radiator. Second, simply learning the basics of functional modeling was not enough to assist students in leveraging their knowledge of hair dryers to understand a car radiator.

Nelson, J. T., & Linsey, J. S., & Nagel, R. L., & Bohm, M. R. (2018, June), The Impact of Functional Modeling on Engineering Students' Mental Models Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31108

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