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Use of Concept Generation Techniques in Different Cultural Settings

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Design Methodology and Evaluation 2

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1292.1 - 23.1292.14



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Paper Authors


Meagan R. Kendall University of Texas, Austin

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Meagan R. Vaughan received a B.S. in Engineering, Mechanical Engineering concentration, in 2007 from LeTourneau University in Longview, TX, USA. During her time at LeTourneau University, she was an active participant for two years in the LeTourneau Engineering Global Solutions (LEGS) program, now LIMBS International, designing low-cost lower limb prosthetic components for developing countries. She received a M.S. in Engineering with a concentration in Biomechanics in 2009 and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA.

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Richard H. Crawford University of Texas, Austin

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Dr. Richard H. Crawford is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and is the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellow No. 3. He is also Director of the Design Projects program in Mechanical Engineering. He received his BSME from Louisiana State University in 1982, and his MSME in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1989, both from Purdue University. He teaches mechanical engineering design and geometry modeling for design. Dr. Crawford’s research interests span topics in computer-aided mechanical design and design theory and methodology. Dr. Crawford is co-founder of the DTEACh program, a ”Design Technology” program for K-12, and is active on the faculty of the UTeachEngineering program that seeks to educate teachers of high school engineering.

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Effectiveness of Concept Generation Techniques in Different Cultural Settings Design processes utilizing concept generation tools, such as 6-3-5 and Brainstormingwith Mind-Mapping, are having wide application in product development processes in developedcountries. The use of these tools has contributed to improvements to many common devices,from handheld power screwdrivers to nail clippers. Designers from developed countries are alsoapplying these concept generation tools to design problems identified in underdevelopedcountries. In order to design effective products for underdeveloped countries, the inclusion of theend-user in the design process is advocated as a means of accurately identifying and satisfyingthe needs of the poor. However, including the end-users and training them to lead future designefforts often add an additional layer of complexity because of differences in culture and languageamong the participants. In transferring these techniques to designers in underdeveloped communities, it isimportant to first determine to what extent these tools are culture-specific, what modificationsmust be made in order for them to be effective in other cultures, and how this might affect theteaching of these techniques. This paper presents a case study in which concept generationtechniques were applied to the same design problem, for the same industry, with groups indifferent countries, one developed and one underdeveloped. It is hypothesized that, in changingthe cultural setting, the results of the concept generation sessions would differ, as would thepreferred techniques. Since the ability for participants to learn and communicate ideas is critical for the successof concept generation, two concept generation techniques were selected for their ability toaccommodate multiple learning styles—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. The selectedtechniques, Brainstorming with Mind Mapping and 6-3-5/C-Sketch, are kinesthetic in nature andrely on active participation, writing, and/or sketching by all group members. They aredifferentiated by the secondary learning style that they encourage the participant to utilize. Study participant groups were recruited from prosthetic clinics in Bolivia and the US.They were taught how to apply these concept generation methods to a common problem—tocreate a prosthetic socket design which could accommodate changes in residual limb volume.This problem was chosen because lack of proper fit and comfort in their sockets continues to bean issue of great concern to amputees, despite improved technology and advancements inunderstanding lower limb prosthetic socket fit. Existing prosthetic socket technology oftencannot compensate for changes in the shape of the residual limb and the resulting discomfort forthe user. Therefore, a new socket design is sought using these techniques. The resulting concepts generated by each group were rated according to four metrics(novelty, quality, variety, and quantity) to quantitatively compare the results of the conceptgeneration sessions in each country. It appeared that the more visual techniques, such as the 6-3-5 method, were more widely accepted by both groups with a stronger dislike for verbaltechniques in Bolivia. Therefore, removing the language barrier may help to encourage effectiveconcept generation when crossing cultural boundaries.

Kendall, M. R., & Crawford, R. H. (2013, June), Use of Concept Generation Techniques in Different Cultural Settings Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22677

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