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WORK IN PROGRESS: Quantitative Information Acquisition and Utilization by First-Year Engineering Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Guannan Liu Purdue University - West Lafayette


DeLean Tolbert Smith Purdue University - West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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DeLean Tolbert is an Engineering Education doctoral candidate at Purdue University. She earned a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan–Dearborn and a M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan. Through her dissertation, DeLean investigates the ways that Black boys develop Engineer of 2020 attributes in their precollege out-of-school time lived experiences. This work will serve as a foundation for her future research, through which she anticipates exploring how ethnically diverse students apply these attributes to engineering tasks in both formal and informal settings.

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John Alexander Mendoza-Garcia Purdue University - West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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John Mendoza-Garcia is a Colombian Systems Engineer, and currently a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. His advisors are Dr. Monica E. Cardella and Dr. William C. Oakes. In his dissertation, he is interested in understanding the development of the ability to deal with problems in Engineering complex socio-technical systems via variation theory. Other interests are curriculum development for mathematical thinking, design thinking, and human-centered design. He is currently on a leave of absence from the department of systems engineering at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. He worked as a software engineer in different companies for seven years before transitioning to academia.

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Anirudh Roshan Sriram Purdue University - West Lafayette

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Anirudh Roshan Sriram is a Technical Writer for Verification and Validation Products at the MathWorks. He received his Bachelor of Technology in Mechanical Engineering from VIT University, India in 2013 and his Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana in 2015. His research interests include CAD, FEA, engineering education, qualitative research, product design techniques, multidisciplinary design optimization, and algorithms for design optimization. He is a member of ASME.

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Monica E. Cardella Purdue University - West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Monica E. Cardella is the Director of the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering Education and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Information gathering is a crucial activity in design practice and is generally considered as part of the problem scoping process.Researchers have conducted expert-novice studies and found that experts spent more time engaged in problem scoping and gathered more information than senior engineering students 1, and seniors gathered more information than freshman students 2. While Atman’s research focused on information gathered, Shanteau3 focused on information use and found that the amount of information used does not reflect the designer's’ level of expertise. According to Shanteau, it is the evaluation and utilization of the gathered information that differentiates experts from non-experts.

The purpose of this study is to investigate the interplay between the mathematical and design thinking processes. We focus on quantitative information because it can be considered either as new mathematical knowledge the participant could get to work on the task, or it could also be understood as a new material resource they have. Both, mathematical (quantitative) knowledge and mathematical material resources are part of mathematical thinking, and understanding how these support or hinders design thinking has become a relevant study topic. Therefore, the acquisition and utilization of quantitative information during a design process will be explored by answering the following research questions:

1) What kind of quantitative information do First-Year Engineering students gather? 2) How is this information used during their design processes, and 3) How does this information translate to their final designs?

Data for this study was collected from 20 First-Year Engineering students who attend an ABET accredited university in the midwestern U.S. This analysis focuses on a sample of 5 of these students. Each of the students who participated in the study were asked to “think aloud” while designing a playground for an imaginary neighborhood. The entire three-hour design session was both video and audio recorded and the participants’ final design artifacts were also electronically documented. Each student received the same design task in a written form containing background information and design requirements, and each student was able to acquire more information (from either that task administrator or the internet) that they considered relevant during their design process. Macro-level video analysis coding of the video data will be aided by reviewing the researcher fieldnotes, and will allow the research team to identify major events (i.e. when the students acquired or utilized quantitative information). In addition to what is already known about information gathering, we anticipate contributing additional insights into the ways that first-year engineering students acquire, evaluate and utilize quantitative information.


1. Atman CJ, Adams RS, Cardella ME, Turns J, Mosborg S, Saleem J, 2007, “Engineering Design Processes: A Comparison of Students and Expert Practitioners”, Journal of Engineering Education. 2. Atman CJ, Chimka JR, Bursic KM, Nachtmann HL, 1999, “A comparison of freshman and senior engineering design processes”. Design Studies. 1999;20(2):131-152. doi: 10.1016/S0142-694X(98)00031-3. 3. Shanteau J., 1992, “How much information does an expert use? is it relevant?”, Acta Psychologica, 81,75-86 4. Tolbert D, Cardella ME, 2014, “Learning to Integrate Mathematical and Design Thinking in Engineering”, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, American Society for Engineering Education

Liu, G., & Tolbert Smith, D., & Mendoza-Garcia, J. A., & Sriram, A. R., & Cardella, M. E. (2016, June), WORK IN PROGRESS: Quantitative Information Acquisition and Utilization by First-Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27028

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