Functional modeling as a design methodology is often covered in engineering design texts as a tool for transforming “customer speak” into “engineering speak.” There is little to no empirical data, though, that clearly demonstrates that learning functional modeling actually improves students’ engineering design skills. The overall objective of this project is to determine the impact of teaching function on engineering students’ design synthesis abilities. This paper focuses on preliminary data collected as a part of the longitudinal study. Students were asked to generate functional models of functionally similar systems at two points during an engineering design course: (1) once as a homework assignment immediately following the introduction of the topic and (2) again as a low stakes in-class activity seven weeks later. This paper will present the comparison of models created at both data points. Student models at each time point are analyzed using a validated 18-question rubric. The results provide promise that, in general, students retain their modeling ability, but there are noted characteristic differences between homework-generated functional models and those generated later in the semester during an in-class activity. These characteristics will be discussed as will potential improvements to the scoring rubric.

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