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Integrating Information into the Engineering Design Process

Michael Fosmire
David Radcliffe
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  • Book Info
    Integrating Information into the Engineering Design Process
    Book Description:

    Engineering design is a fundamental problem-solving model used by the discipline. Effective problem solving requires the ability to find and incorporate quality information sources. To teach courses in this area effectively, educators need to understand the information needs of engineers and engineering students and their information-gathering habits. This book provides essential guidance for engineering faculty and librarians wishing to better integrate information competencies into their curricular offerings. The treatment of the subject matter is pragmatic, accessible, and engaging. Rather than focusing on specific resources or interfaces, the book adopts a process-driven approach that outlasts changing information technologies. After several chapters introducing the conceptual underpinnings of the book, a sequence of shorter contributions go into more detail about specific steps in the design process and the information needs for those steps. While they are based on the latest research and theory, the emphasis of the chapters is on usable knowledge. Designed to be accessible, they also include illustrative examples drawn from specific engineering subdisciplines to show how the core concepts can be applied in those situations.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-307-7
    Subjects: Education, Technology

Table of Contents

    (pp. vii-viii)

    There is wide recognition that information literacy is an essential element of success in academic work, employment, and everyday life. Though many variations of definitions of information literacy abound, I consider information literacy to be a way of thinking—ahabit of mind. Its defining characteristic is the drawing upon information-related strategies and skills, almost instinctively, to address problems or questions. For students, the development of this habit occurs optimally through the integration of information literacy concepts, skills, and strategies in courses, curricula, and cocurricular activities. It becomes a habit through progressive reinforcement during the formal educational process.

    There are...

    (pp. 1-4)

    This handbook is structured in three distinct parts. Chapters 1 through 3 assemble key concepts about information literacy, engineering design and how engineers use information. These chapters draw on the relevant bodies of literature and are written in a scholarly style. Specifically, Chapter 1 views the engineering design process from several quite different perspectives. The goal is not to settle on a preferred model of design but to identify generic characteristics that are common to most normative descriptions of how design is done. Chapter 2 is an overview of concepts and definitions in information literacy, and Chapter 3 provides some...

  3. PART I Information-Rich Engineering Design

      (pp. 7-20)
      David Radcliffe

      Design is a defining characteristic of engineering. Theodore von Kármán, the Hungarian-born physicist and engineer, is reputed to have said, “Scientists study the world as it is; engineers create the world that never has been.” Engineers share this creative endeavor with many other design professionals, ranging from fashion and graphic designers to architectural and industrial designers. While engineers and engineering educators often define engineers asproblem solvers, this epithet fails to adequately capture the full richness of what it is to engineer (Holt et al., 1985).

      Engineering design is a recursive activity that results in artifacts—physical or virtual. These...

      (pp. 21-34)
      Michael Fosmire

      The previous chapter identified different conceptual approaches to engineering design and some of the factors that can improve successful design outcomes. One of the recurring themes is the need for strong information management skills, what librarians commonly refer to asinformation literacy. With the explosion of information technology capabilities, the availability of vast amounts of content on a user’s desktop, and the concept of the new generation of “digital natives,” who are supposed to navigate these resources effortlessly (Prensky, 2001), instructors can be lulled into believing that they don’t need to guide students in locating information resources, let alone understanding...

      (pp. 35-44)
      Michael Fosmire

      By understanding the challenges faced by practicing engineers and engineering students in effectively utilizing information to make good design decisions, you will begin to see what gaps need to be filled by instructional interventions. By gaining a deeper appreciation of the competing challenges engineers face, you will see the need to incorporate activities that build information literacy skills in students. Fundamentally, the more familiar and routine information gathering is for students, the more likely they will use those skills in their subsequent work. The observations, models, and opinions in this chapter led us to the development of the Information-Rich Engineering...

      (pp. 45-58)
      David Radcliffe

      The review of the nature of engineering design in Chapter 1 revealed a many-faceted, contingent, sociotechnical endeavor that is difficult to define, capture, and characterize in a simple manner. While recognizing the complex, emergent nature of engineering design and the diversity of perspectives, for the purposes of this handbook we have distilled from the analysis in Chapter 1 seven elemental activities that are part of any engineering design project. These are not intended to be a linear prescribed set of actions in an engineering design project. On the contrary, most of these activities occur at multiple times across any project,...

  4. PART II Designing Information-Rich Engineering Design Experiences

    • Organize Your Team

      • CHAPTER 5 ACT ETHICALLY: Design with Integrity
        (pp. 61-74)
        Megan Sapp Nelson, Donna Ferullo and Bonnie Osif

        Even before starting a design project, while still organizing the team, instructors frequently begin by setting expectations for student work, including introducing the concepts of ethical behavior. Among other topics, ethical behavior includes doing due diligence, presenting all of the relevant information and not just convenient facts, and respecting the work of others. Ultimately, the goal for engineers is to provide an accurate assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their solutions, rather than misrepresenting a solution in order to win a contract. Instilling this ethos into the classroom environment from the beginning will create an appropriate focus on engineering...

      • CHAPTER 6 BUILD A FIRM FOUNDATION: Managing Project Knowledge Efficiently and Effectively
        (pp. 75-86)
        Jon Jeffryes

        Before giving a design brief to student teams, instructors generally have them engage in some team organization activities, such as determining roles and developing a shared understanding of responsibility and accountability. One of the organizing activities frequently neglected, however, is determining how students will manage the information they gather and the knowledge they generate so that the whole team benefits. If they do discuss it, students may only go as far as saying they will set up a shared folder on Dropbox or Google Drive to hold their work. However, even if students have thought about a platform, they typically...

    • Clarify the Task

      • CHAPTER 7 FIND THE REAL NEED: Understanding the Task
        (pp. 87-100)
        Megan Sapp Nelson

        Once the team is organized and a code of conduct has been agreed upon, team members are ready to explore the design task. This usually commences with a design brief that contains the client’s initial interpretation of the problem to be solved. However, a project team that considers only the design brief may substantially miss the mark in their design solutions. This is not only because only so much information can be communicated in a written document, but also because often clients do not know what exactly they want. This can be because they are unaware of possibilities or because...

      • CHAPTER 8 SCOUT THE LAY OF THE LAND: Understanding the Broader Context of a Design Project
        (pp. 101-114)
        Amy Van Epps and Monica Cardella

        In the previous chapter the importance of gathering information from stakeholders was discussed. However, in order to clarify the task more fully, designers need to also take into account the contextual components of the artifact being designed, such as the geography, economy, cultural norms, material resources, human resources, and environmental resources. This information helps the team create a coherent and cogent description of purpose and a scope of the design need or opportunity for a particular problem in a specific location. After collecting this information, the design team establishes a set of criteria by which possible alternative solutions are evaluated...

      • CHAPTER 9 MAKE IT SAFE AND LEGAL: Meeting Broader Community Expectations
        (pp. 115-124)
        Bonnie Osif

        In addition to understanding user needs and contextual factors, the design team needs to consider issues of safety, legal constraints, and/or professional standards for performance or interoperability. These matters need to be addressed early on in the design process as part of clarifying the task. Safety is a paramount consideration that begins at the outset of a design project and which spans the entire life cycle of any product, process, or system. If the design team fails to take into account the need for certification to meet a required standard for safe use or issues of compatibility with other systems,...

    • Synthesize Possibilities

      • CHAPTER 10 DRAW ON EXISTING KNOWLEDGE: Taking Advantage of Prior Art
        (pp. 125-136)
        Jim Clarke

        Once a student design team has thoroughly explored the specific needs of the project stakeholders and the safety and performance constraints the team needs to meet, design team members start to formulate potential solutions. At this point, it is important for students to cast the widest net of possible solutions. In addition to using traditional intra-team techniques such as brainstorming, students need to look outside the immediate knowledge of the team and investigate how others have solved similar problems, an activity that is often referred to asinvestigating prior art. The investigation or study of prior art is a vital...

    • Select Solution

      • CHAPTER 11 MAKE DEPENDABLE DECISIONS: Using Information Wisely
        (pp. 137-148)
        Jeremy Garritano

        Having synthesized knowledge of the specific needs of the stakeholders (Chapter 7), the context of the design task (Chapter 8), professional requirements and best practices for performance (Chapter 9), and the universe of previously developed solutions (Chapter 10), student teams will then systematically choose the solution that best fits their situation. This is an important step in the design process because

        designers can drive further efficiency or economy in implementation by comparing their ideas and solutions to those of others;

        designers will spend less time in testing or deployment since they will have eliminated less promising solutions and false leads...

    • Refine Solution

      • CHAPTER 12 MAKE IT REAL: Finding the Most Suitable Materials and Components
        (pp. 149-158)
        Jay Bhatt, Michael Magee and Joseph Mullin

        The previous stages of the design process have helped determine what the students’ artifact needs to do, how well it needs to do it, and possible ways to accomplish this. Once a preferred concept to solve the design problem has been selected, the details of how to actually build the artifact must be determined and embodied in the final artifact.

        Selecting the most appropriate and cost-effective materials and components is critical to the success of a design project (Ashby, 2011a). Without careful materials selection, the resulting artifact may be suboptimal in terms of performance, ease of manufacture, fabrication, or cost...

    • Communicate Effectively

      • CHAPTER 13 GET YOUR MESSAGE ACROSS: The Art of Gathering and Sharing Information
        (pp. 159-170)
        Patrice Buzzanell and Carla Zoltowski

        Typically, the student design project culminates with a formal presentation and written documentation given to the instructor and clients or other stakeholders of the project. This is the opportunity for the students to demonstrate what they have learned and achieved in the course of their project, and showcase their skill in distilling this knowledge so that they provide the essential, relevant information in a concise, coherent, and persuasive manner.

        Although the final presentation is the dominant focus when students think about communication, throughout the engineering design process, there are multiple opportunities to communicate with various stakeholders who have a vested...

    • Improve Processes

      • CHAPTER 14 REFLECT AND LEARN: Capturing New Design and Process Knowledge
        (pp. 171-182)
        David Radcliffe

        Frequently, students, instructors, and indeed practicing engineers view the final presentation and documentation as the end of a design experience. However, the lessons are not fully learned until students have reflected on their experiences and internalized their insights into their professional practice. Engineers tend to be results oriented. They focus on solving a problem and once it is solved, and the challenge is over, they move on to the next project. However, during the course of any design project new technical knowledge is created and the teams can learn important lessons about how to work as a team in such...

  5. PART III Ensuring That Students Develop Information Literacy Skills

    • CHAPTER 15 SCAFFOLD AND ASSESS: Preparing Students to Be Informed Designers
      (pp. 185-194)
      Senay Purzer and Ruth Wertz

      The previous chapters in this handbook outline the place of information literacy within engineering design. This chapter complements the other chapters by showing how instructors can lay a foundation for students so that their first exposure to using information in an engineering context is not when they are engaged in a fully autonomous design project. In this chapter methods are described for assessing information literacy and provide examples that help gradually build student knowledge and skills as early as the first year of the engineering curriculum.

      This chapter starts with a review of common challenges faced by undergraduate engineering students....

    (pp. 195-198)

    We hope that this exploration of Information-Rich Engineering Design has sparked ideas that you will incorporate in your design classes to enable your students to make more effective use of a diverse range of information resources in their projects.

    An informed approach to engineering design starts with laying a firm foundation, setting expectations for information gathering, and having teams develop codes of conduct for participating in information gathering and sharing resources among team members. Embedding the need for good information habits in the context of the ethical responsibilities of engineers, one of which is to provide accurate advice to clients,...