Abstract

The objective of this study is to investigate students’ decision-making during the information gathering activities of a design process. Existing literature in engineering education has shown that students face difficulties while gathering information in various activities of a design process such as brainstorming and CAD modeling. Decision-making is an important aspect of these activities. While gathering information, students make several decisions such as what information to acquire and how to acquire that information. There lies a research gap in understanding how students make decisions while gathering information in a product design process. To address this gap, we conduct semi-structured interviews and surveys in a product design course. We analyze the students’ decision-making activities from the lens of a sequential information acquisition and decision-making (SIADM) framework. We find that the students recognize the need to acquire information about the physics and dynamics of their design artifact during the CAD modeling activity of the product design process. However, they do not acquire such information from their CAD models primarily due to the lack of the project requirements, their ability, and the time to do so. Instead, they acquire such information from the prototyping activity as their physical prototype does not satisfy their design objectives. However, the students do not get the opportunity to iterate their prototype with the given cost and time constraints. Consequently, they rely on improvising during prototyping. Based on our observations, we discuss the need for designing course project activities such that it facilitates students’ product design decisions.

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