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Utilizing Reverse Engineering To Explore The Design Process

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.489.1 - 2.489.12



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Paper Authors

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Roland Jenison

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Rebecca Sidler Kellogg

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

Session 2438

Utilizing Reverse Engineering to Explore the Design Process

Rebecca Sidler Kellogg, Roland Jenison Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Iowa State University


Faculty at Iowa State University (ISU) have used the process of reverse engineering for the past five years to introduce lower division students to product design principles. This paper discusses the use of reverse engineering as a hands-on activity in the Engineering Design Graphics (ENGR 170) course. This activity was initiated with support from the National Science Foundation Synthesis Coalition. Students are assigned to teams of three to five members each and learn to work and collaborate with their colleagues to accomplish a given task. In this case the task is to dissect a product provided by the instructor to learn about design. Students investigate how the product performs, how its various systems operate, and what limitations exist in the design. As they disassemble the product, they are required to carefully document their procedure. They are asked to make sketches and drawings of the assembly and various components. The students study how the components were designed, what materials were used, how the parts were assem- bled, and how each component functioned as part of the whole. They consider the criteria and constraints that were met by the design and formulate a description of the primary need the prod- uct addresses. Students discuss how the various engineering disciplines contributed to the over- all design and get a flavor for the collaborative nature of design. They also consider possible uses for the product as well as how the product might be misused. In addition, students are asked to think about other ways the design could have been achieved. In some of the projects students are asked to design a test to discover how well the product performs its tasks. Both written and verbal communication are emphasized. Students are required to submit a formal written report about the product they studied. They also learn about the importance of verbal communication in design through the teamwork experience. After the product has been thoroughly studied, the stu- dents are often required to reassemble it so that it once again works. Several products have been used for the dissection project at Iowa State University including a fabric shaver, a computer mouse, a Dremel FreeWheeler, a Kodak FunSaver™ camera, and a mobile robot built from a kit of components designed at Iowa State. Various aspects of these product dissection projects are discussed in this paper. The reader will learn how each of these projects was used in the course to enhance the students’ design experience. This paper also looks at student and faculty response to hands-on, reverse engineering projects as part of ENGR 170. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the future directions of this project.


Faculty at Iowa State University (ISU) have used the process of reverse engineering for the past five years to introduce lower division engineering students to product design principles. The ef-

Jenison, R., & Kellogg, R. S. (1997, June), Utilizing Reverse Engineering To Explore The Design Process Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6892

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