Theoretically strong decision approaches such as utility theory are currently being researched for use in engineering design. Countless ad hoc decision tools have preceded this recent work, yet only a handful of these tools are used by industry or taught in universities. Reasons for the emergence of such a small number of acceptable decision tools are not known. In this paper, the opinions of undergraduate engineering students in an industry-sponsored senior design class and their sponsor mentors are studied to identify reasons why some decision tools are more popular than others. Two established decision tools were introduced to the class and used in the projects. A survey was used to gather student and sponsor opinions about the two tools and important aspects of decision tools. Results indicate a variety of factors influencing the students’ preference of one decision tool, including simplicity, clarity of results, the ability to give more emphasis to certain criteria, and ease of communication of results to their sponsors. Other results from the study include information about strategies for integrating decision tools into a design process and the role of projects in promoting reflection and learning by students.

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