Numerous engineering design-decision methods have been developed to assist groups of engineers in making choices within a design problem. However, while there are a variety of methods to choose from, there is no empirical data that exhibits which decision-method is best for specific phases of the design process, or that designers are willing to adopt particular decision methods. Due to this lack of empirical data, industry may not use certain engineering design methods since they do not have the resources or time to investigate which method would work best for them. This work presents the development of a framework to examine various engineering design-decision methods in practice. The framework is used in a pilot study with undergraduate engineering students which compares usage of Pugh’s Controlled Convergence (PuCC) and the Group Hypothetical Equivalent and Inequivalent Method (G-HEIM) to the results of an “informal” method (a group decision that is made without a formalized decision method). Results of the pilot study include documenting the emergence of decision “traps” within each group, assessing student perceptions about using formalized design-decision methods through interviews and surveys (critical to understanding potential barriers to adoption of formal methods), and insight into where formal decision methods are most appropriate within a design process. Finally, a number of changes and additions to the framework and study protocol are identified for future work focused on repeating the study with more participants and potentially in industrial settings.

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