The Risk in Early Design (RED) tool is a knowledge base containing numerous engineering failure modes associated with the functionality of failed components along with measures of their occurrence and severity. This knowledge base is queried by function (represented using the functional basis lexicon) and historical risk information is presented to the user. To investigate the effectiveness of such a knowledge base in a classroom setting, a formal experiment was constructed and implemented within a large freshman engineering design course involving the identification of a failure mode of a power drill. The control group used a traditional failure analysis technique utilizing a failure mode effects and criticality assessment (FMECA) template. The experimental group utilized a similar technique but was given access to the RED tool. The results of the experiment were blocked by lab section. The experiment showed that RED provided a statistically significant improvement in teams’ ability to identify an exact failure (a 15.6% improvement with a p-value of 0.047). Other observations and measures studied that did not have statistically significant outcomes are reported as well.

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