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The Prototype for X (PFX) Framework: Assessing Its Impact on Students’ Prototyping Awareness

J. Menold, K. Jablokow, T. Simpson, and E. Waterman
2016, American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition

Each year, billions of dollars are invested by large companies in product research and design. Studies indicate that anywhere from 40-50% of those resources are wasted on cancelled products or those which yield poor results. The largest sunk cost of product development occurs during the prototyping phase of the design process, yet engineering design research has largely overlooked this pivotal stage in the design process. This study is a portion of a larger project based on a new theoretical framework for prototyping called Prototype for X or PFX. PFX draws from human centered design (HCD), design thinking (DT) and Design for X (DFX) frameworks and methods to enhance the design process and allow designers to prototype more effectively. Among the anticipated impacts of PFX is increased confidence in one’s prototyping skills, i.e., increased confidence in one’s ability to develop prototypes for different conditions. The research described here marks the first step in testing this hypothesis, namely, exploring the impact of PFX on students’ prototyping awareness. In this study, students at a large Mid-Atlantic university were taught three prototyping lenses based on the PFX methodology: (1) Prototyping for Viability, (2) Prototyping for Feasibility, and (3) Prototyping for Desirability. This paper presents preliminary findings on the relationship between the these three prototyping lenses and students’ prototyping awareness, which we define as students’ ability to identify their mental models during the prototyping process. We use prototyping awareness as a proxy to measure adoption and implementation of PFX methods. The Prototyping Awareness Scale, or PAWS was created for this study, and we discuss its internal consistency and future iterations. Data were collected throughout the course of a semester-long design project; the PAWS was distributed at the conclusion of each PFX learning module. Results from both between and within subject experiments are presented.