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The Prototype for X Framework: Assessing Impact on Self-Reported Prototyping Behavior of Student Designers

J. Menold, K. Jablokow, and T. Simpson
2019, Journal of Mechanical Design

A significant gap exists between engineering students’ perceptions of prototypes and prototyping abilities and professionals’ perceptions and abilities. Structured prototyping frameworks have recently been developed and proposed as a means to help students close this gap, but the effects of these frameworks on students’ behavior have not been assessed. The purpose of this work is to investigate if and how a structured prototyping framework affects the self-reported prototyping behaviors of engineering students. Understanding how structured prototyping frameworks affect students can provide educators with a deeper understanding of the way their students adopt and understand design methods. A mixed method study is presented. A 15-item survey and two open-ended questions were distributed to 235 students in a junior-level mechanical engineering design class in order to capture self-reported prototyping behavior. Quantitative results indicate that significant differences in engineering students’ prototyping behaviors exist across time and between groups. Results from qualitative analysis indicate that students in the control group focused solely on improving technical quality, while students in both experimental groups focused on a wider range of design qualities. This study is the first to demonstrate that a structured prototyping framework can affect engineering students’ self-reported prototyping behaviors during design activities.