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Helping Teams Expand the Breadth of Their Solution Space Through Product Dissection: A Simulation Based Investigation

M. Alzayed, C. McComb, S. Hunter, and S. Miller
2018, Journal of Mechanical Design

Product dissection has been highlighted as an effective means of interacting with example products in order to produce creative outcomes. While product dissection is often conducted as a team in engineering design education, the research on the effectiveness of product dissection activities has been primarily limited to individuals. Thus, the goal of this study was to investigate the impact of the type(s) of product dissected in a team environment on the breadth of the design space explored and the underlying influence of educational level and dissection modality on these effects. This was accomplished through a computational simulation of 14,000 nominal brainstorming teams generated by a statistical bootstrapping technique that accounted for all possible team configurations. Specifically, each team was composed of four team members based on a design repository of 931 ideas generated by first-year and senior engineering design students after a product dissection activity. The results of the study highlight that educational level, dissection modality and the number of products dissected all significantly impacted the solution space explored by the simulated teams. Specifically, senior engineering students, physically dissecting the product, and dissecting a wider variety of products all positively impacted the solution space explored. However, several interactions drove further differences. The findings presented in this study can lead to a better understanding of how to most effectively deploy product dissection modules in engineering design education in order to maximize the solution space explored.