Breadth in Problem Scoping: a Comparison of Freshman and Senior Engineering Students

Cynthia J. Atman and Ken Yasuhara
Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching
University of Washington, Box 352180, Seattle, WA 98195-2180, USA

Robin S. Adams
Department of Engineering Education
Purdue University, Armstrong Hall, 701 West Stadium Ave., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045, USA

Theresa J. Barker
Department of Industrial Engineering
University of Washington, Box 352650, Seattle, WA 98195-2650, USA

Jennifer Turns
Department of Technical Communication
University of Washington, Box 352195, Seattle, WA 98195-2195, USA

Eddie Rhone
Lake Partners Strategy Consultants, Inc.
1000 Second Ave., Suite 3600, Seattle, WA 98104, USA

In this paper we characterize breadth of problem scoping in an engineering design problem. Specifically, we present several measures that quantify the number and variety of factors an individual problem-solver considers during the engineering design process. We apply these measures to data collected from freshman and senior engineering students who solved a short design problem. The results of our study indicate that graduating seniors do consider a broader array of factors than freshmen as they undertake the problem-scoping stage of the design process.


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