We describe an approach for automatically computing a class of design rationales. Our focus is computing the purposes of the geometric features on the parts of a device. This is accomplished by first simulating the device with the feature in question removed and comparing this to a simulation of the nominal device. The differences between the simulations are indicative of the behaviors that the feature ultimately causes. Fundamental principles of mechanics are then used to construct a causal explanation that describes how the feature causes these behaviors. This explanation constitutes one of the rationales for the feature. We have implemented a computer program called ExplainIT that uses this approach to compute rationales and we have tested it on various examples. [S1050-0472(00)01001-1]

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