Asee peer logo

Work In Progress: Using Current Crowdfunding Projects as Case Studies to Enhance Students’ Understanding of the Design Process

Download Paper |


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

FPD and DEEDs Joint Postcard Sessions

Tagged Divisions

First-Year Programs and Design in Engineering Education

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Derek Breid Saint Vincent College Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Derek Breid is an assistant professor of Engineering Science at Saint Vincent College. His interests include integrating active learning techniques into classic engineering courses, and studying the mechanical behavior of soft materials.

visit author page

Download Paper |


When teaching an introductory engineering design course, a typical challenge for students lies in grasping the nature of the design thinking mindset and the often scattered nature of the design process. Since design is often taught as a multidisciplinary course (or as a component of one) early in the curriculum, one approach to address this in a discipline-blind manner is to focus on the design of products familiar to students in their everyday lives. However, a drawback to this approach is that it typically can only be used to analyze fully-developed and commercially successful products, which can obscure the messy details and iterations inherent in the design process. It also strongly biases the pool of potential cases toward successful designs, leaving few opportunities for students to dissect poorly-executed design processes. While companies are not typically very open about developmental products, significant insight can be gained by examining projects seeking financial backing on crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Such projects often attempt to address a need not currently being met by existing products, and as such represent a good way to highlight the importance of good problem definition. Crowdfunding projects are also present in various stages of development, and the designers often provide insight into the evolution of the product as it has progressed from idea to prototype as part of their funding pitch. This paper reports early results on student attitudes towards a low-stakes course exercise in a sophomore-level introductory engineering design course at a small liberal arts college. Outside of class time, each student researches a current crowdfunding project to briefly present in class. In the presentation and discussion that follows, students practice identifying the underlying needs which they perceive drove the design of the crowdfunded product, as well as important design constraints and the specific decisions made by the designer. At the end of the course, students were asked in a written survey to self-evaluate the effect this exercise had on their understanding of the design process. The results of this survey, combined with observations from the instructor, indicate that the exercise is helpful to students and suggest potential improvements to its implementation in future versions of the course. This paper discusses these results in the context of the multidisciplinary program offered by the college, and provides tips for instructors looking to adopt a similar approach.

Breid, D. (2018, June), Work In Progress: Using Current Crowdfunding Projects as Case Studies to Enhance Students’ Understanding of the Design Process Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31314

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015