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Use Of Fuller Polya Diagram For Teaching Engineering Problem Solving In Undergraduate Design Classes

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Teaching Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1386.1 - 10.1386.11



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Paper Authors

author page

Gustavo Molina

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

Use of Fuller-Polya diagram for teaching engineering problem solving in undergraduate design classes

Gustavo J. Molina

School of Technology, Georgia Southern University


On teaching a sophomore Engineering design class the author emphasizes a problem solving approach to teaching which integrates through team-work design miniprojects. The three levels of design-problem complexity, e.g., routine standard, poorly defined and open-ended creative- design problems, are introduced in a studio-lab classroom setting. The last two problem types are readily solved by sophomores after they learn basic techniques. However, the routine single- answer standard-algorithms may be difficult for students if not presented as straight “plug-data” computations (i.e., if formulas or procedures are not for explicit computation of the required results from the given data). Sophomores are not used to make the connections between the mathematics and physics they learned and the standardized handbook-type engineering computations, where multiple data and result values may be required or produced, and non- algebraic procedures are employed.

The author introduced in his class the Fuller-Polya diagram for problem solving, a simple structured method outlined by Fuller and Polya and formalized by Kardos, to graphically organize the variables and their relationships in the computation without the mathematical formula and procedure details. The approach showed useful to help students’ understanding and insight of deterministic engineering algorithms.


Teaching students how to solve problems is a growing concern of Engineering and Technology education. Problem solving in the Engineering/Technology practice is usually directed to the design of products or processes, and this connection makes the teaching of engineering problem solving a natural part of design classes. In recent years new undergraduate courses have been implemented that expand creative thinking in engineering design by including solving problem and project based-learning [1]. A number of innovative teaching techniques can be employed for such purpose, being the “studio” methods particularly successful to enhance student creativity and involvement in solving problems, mainly through team-work under a mentor [2].

A problem-based teaching methodology is used by the author in the Creative Decisions and Design sophomore class he teaches as part of the Georgia Tech Regional Engineering Program (GTREP) and Regents Engineering Transfer Program (RETP) for Mechanical Engineering majors in Georgia Southern University. The different problem-solving techniques integrate in team-work design projects. The class meets twice a week for 50-minute lectures, and once a week for three-hour studio-lab in an appropriate classroom for hands-on work, as well in special labs for some activities (i.e., machining lab, robotics and measurement lab, etc.)

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Molina, G. (2005, June), Use Of Fuller Polya Diagram For Teaching Engineering Problem Solving In Undergraduate Design Classes Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15342

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