Student focus and prioritization of design parameters in first-year engineering design projects

Goncher, Andrea, Johri, Aditya, & Boles, Wageeh (2013) Student focus and prioritization of design parameters in first-year engineering design projects. In Lemckert, Charles, Jenkins, Graham, & Lang-Lemckert, Susan (Eds.) AAEE2013 Abstract Handbook : 24th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, Griffith School of Engineering, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.


BACKGROUND Research on engineering design is a core area of concern within engineering education and a fundamental understanding of how engineering students approach and undertake design is necessary in order to develop effective design models and pedagogies. Understanding the factors related to design experiences in education and how they affect student practice can help educators as well as designers to leverage these factors as part of the design process.

PURPOSE This study investigated the design practices of first-year engineering students’ and their experiences with a first-year engineering course design project. The research questions that guided the investigation were: 1. From a student perspective, what design parameters or criteria are most important? 2. How does this perspective impact subsequent student design practice throughout the design process?

DESIGN/METHOD The authors employed qualitative multi-case study methods (Miles & Huberman, 1994) in order to the answer the research questions. Participant teams were observed and video recorded during team design meetings in which they researched the background for the design problem, brainstormed and sketched possible solutions, as well as built prototypes and final models of their design solutions as part of a course design project. Analysis focused on explanation building (Yin, 2009) and utilized within-case and cross-case analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994).

RESULTS We found that students focused disproportionally on the functional parameter, i.e. the physical implementation of their solution, and the possible/applicable parameter, i.e. a possible and applicable solution that benefited the user, in comparison to other given parameters such as safety and innovativeness. In addition, we found that individual teams focused on the functional and possible/ applicable parameters in early design phases such as brainstorming/ ideation and sketching. When prompted to discuss these non-salient parameters (from the student perspective) in the final design report, student design teams often used a post-hoc justification to support how the final designs fit the parameters that they did not initially consider.

CONCLUSIONS This study suggests is that student design teams become fixated on (and consequently prioritize) certain parameters they interpret as important because they feel these parameters were described more explicitly in terms how they were met and assessed. Students fail to consider other parameters, perceived to be less directly assessable, unless prompted to do so. Failure to consider other parameters in the early design phases subsequently affects their approach in design phases as well. Case studies examining students’ study strategies within three Australian Universities illustrate similarities with some student approaches to design.

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ID Code: 67393
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: HERN, Design parameters, Engineering design education, First-year experiences
ISBN: 9780992409913
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Copyright Statement: These proceedings are copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of the publisher. Responsibility for the contents of the articles rests upon the authors and not the publisher. Data presented and conclusions drawn by the authors are for information only and not for use without independent substantiating investigations on the part of the potential user.
Deposited On: 16 Feb 2014 23:57
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2015 06:19

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