Learning to Design Products in Environments with Limited Design Traditions

Christopher Lewis, Spencer Magleby, and Robert Todd
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University Provo, UT 84602, USA
E-mail: clewis@et.byu.edu

Abstract:
Many researchers agree that `today’s engineer must design under — and so understand at a deep level — constraints that include global, cultural, and business contexts’. In an increasingly global economy, the demand for engineers and technical personnel is increasing in every country. Developing countries which have few internal design traditions are struggling to find a place in the ever growing, ever increasing competitive global marketplace. Even developed countries like the United States are finding increasing challenges to their technological dominance. The ability to design and manufacture timely, needed, and inexpensive products for a large variety of consumers is becoming the great differentiator in controlling the global marketplace. Better design and engineering curriculum is needed in developing countries to improve their ability to compete in a global marketplace and find ways to open their own untapped and waiting markets. The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of our approach to develop more flexible design structures and processes that could be adaptable to environments where there is a limited design tradition. It is anticipated that through the use of appropriate processes, designers in developing countries will be able to effectively learn to design products that have value both inside and outside of their community. We also anticipate that these flexible design structures and processes can be integrated into a formal design curriculum customized to meet specific needs. There are six major topics that are relevant to our research. They are design curriculum outcomes, design processes, design curriculum, learning activities and tools, appropriate assessment techniques, and research in developing countries. Our paradigm is based on the premise that project-based learning is one of the most appropriate and effective means of teaching engineering design principles to students. Furthermore, the authors feel that it is crucial to involve industry with academia. Industry involvement in engineering education improves the relevance of education, better prepares students for employment, provides industry with a better qualified workforce, and creates synergy between industry and academia.

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