It has been well established that prototyping is an important part of development projects. Prototypes are used in engineering design courses but teaching students the strategic skills needed to decide what to prototype during development projects is often not a part of the curriculum.
This paper proposes a model that uses the prototyping process to link individual prototyping activities and project goals. The proposition is that when designers work intentionally with prototyping as a process, they will be able to make strategic decisions about how and when to use prototypes.
To teach students a prototyping process mindset, a simple prototype prioritization tool, the Prototyping Target, was developed and integrated into project-based product development courses. Fifteen student teams used the Prototyping Target to decide which project questions to answer with prototypes every week over three weeks. Results show that criticality to project success is a good starting point but not the only parameter to consider when deciding what to prototype.
A comparison between prototyping plans made with and without the Prototyping Target shows that student teams selected a clearer purpose for their prototypes when they used the prioritization tool before planning specific prototyping activities.
Overall, this paper demonstrates the benefits of teaching student designers to navigate the prototyping process.