This paper presents the results of two years of a three-year longitudinal study on the impact of design education on students’ design thinking and practice. Two engineering majors in a large research-intensive state university are being studied. The control group is a major focused on engineering mechanics. The experimental group is a mechanical engineering major that uses design as a context for its curriculum. A task-independent protocol analysis method grounded in the Function-Behavior-Structure design ontology is utilized to provide a common basis for comparing students across discipline and year. This study reports data collected at the beginning and at the end of students’ sophomore year, and at the end of their junior year. Students in the experimental group completed an introductory mechanical design course, while students in the control group had no formal design component in their curriculum. The results of analyzing and comparing the percent occurrences of design processes and problem-solution index from the protocol analysis of both cohorts are presented. These results provide an opportunity to investigate and understand how students’ design cognition is affected by a design course.

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