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  1. Abstract

    The research presented in this paper investigated the changes that occur in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) when new ideas are introduced during engineering design. Undergraduate and graduate engineering students (n = 25) were outfitted with a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) headband. Students were asked to design a personal entertainment system while thinking aloud. New ideas were timestamped with the fNIRS data across 48 channels grouped into eight regions within the PFC. The data were preprocessed using temporal derivative distribution repair motion correction, finite impulse response bandpass filter, and the modified beer-lambert law to convert optical density into hemoglobin concentration. Baseline neurocognitive activation and physiological noise were removed. The study found a significant decrease in oxygenated hemoglobin in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and a subregion of the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex when new ideas were introduced during design. This finding begins to provide a neurocognitive signature of what a new idea looks like as it arises in the brain. This could be used to develop tools and techniques to inhibit this brain region or use this insight to predict when designers will experience a new idea based on their neural activation.

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  2. Abstract

    The think-aloud protocol provides researchers an insight into the designer's mental state, but little is understood about how thinking aloud influences design. The study presented in this paper sets out to measure the cognitive and neurocognitive changes in designers when thinking aloud. Engineering students (n=50) were randomly assigned to the think-aloud or control group. Students were outfitted with a functional near-infrared spectroscopy band. Students were asked to design a personal entertainment system. The think-aloud group spent significantly less time designing. Their design sketches included significantly fewer words. The think-aloud group also required significantly more resources in the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The left DLPFC is often recruited for language processing, and the right DLPFC is involved in visual representation and problem-solving. The faster depletion of neurocognitive resources may have contributed to less time designing. Thinking aloud influences design cognition and neurocognition, but these effects are only now becoming apparent. More research and the adoption of neuroscience techniques can help shed light on these differences.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 19, 2024
  3. Jazizadeh, F. ; Shealy, T. ; Garvin, M. (Ed.)
    Challenges associated with the design and construction of the built environment are complex. Students need training to help them deal with this complexity and to help them explore and reframe problems early during project planning and design. Concept maps provide a visual representation of complex information and the relationships between this information. The research presented in this paper tested whether priming students to think in systems by asking them to draw concept maps changes how they construct problem statements. In total, 40 engineering students participated in the study. Half were asked to draw a concept map before constructing a problem statement about how to improve mobility systems around campus. The cognitive effort (i.e., time and words) students spent on the task and the number of unique system elements included in their problem statement were measured. Students that received the concept mapping intervention spent significantly more time thinking about the problem, developed longer problem statements, and included more unique elements of systems. These findings suggest using concept mapping can aid students’ conceptualization of complex problems. 
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  4. Jazizadeh, F. ; Shealy, T. ; Garvin, M. (Ed.)
    The research presented in this paper explores the effect of concept maps on students’ neurocognition when constructing engineering problem statements. In total, 66 engineering students participated in the experiment. Half of the students were asked to create a concept map illustrating all of the systems and stakeholders represented in a building on campus. The other half of students were not asked to draw a concept map. Both groups were then asked to construct an engineering problem statement about improvements to the building. While performing the problem statement task, their neurocognitive activation in their prefrontal cortex (PFC) was measured using a non-intrusive neuroimaging technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy. The students that were asked to complete the concept mapping task required less cognitive effort to formulate and analyze their problem statements. The specific regions that were less activated were regions of the brain generally associated with working memory and problem evaluation. These results provide new insight into the changes in mental processing that occurs when using tools like concept maps and may provide helpful techniques for students to structure engineering problems. 
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  5. Abstract

    This paper investigates how the core technical processes of the INCOSE model of systems engineering differ from other models of designing used in the domains of mechanical engineering, software engineering and service design. The study is based on fine-grained datasets produced using mappings of the different models onto the function-behaviour-structure (FBS) ontology. By representing every model uniformly, the same statistical analyses can be carried out independently of the domain of the model. Results of correspondence analysis, cumulative occurrence analysis and Markov model analysis show that the INCOSE model differs from the other models in its increased emphasis on requirements and on behaviours derived from structure, in the uniqueness of its verification and validation phases, and in some patterns related to the temporal development and frequency distributions of FBS design issues.

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  6. Abstract Co-evolution accounts have generally been used to describe how problems and solutions both change during the design process. More generally, problems and solutions can be considered as analytic categories, where change is seen to occur within categories or across categories. There are more categories of interest than just problems and solutions, for example, the participants in a design process (such as members of a design team or different design teams) and categories defined by design ontologies (such as function-behaviour-structure or concept-knowledge). In this paper, we consider the co-evolution of different analytic categories (not just problems and solutions), by focussing on how changes to a category originate either from inside or outside that category. We then illustrate this approach by applying it to data from a single design session using three different systems of categorisation (problems and solutions, different designers and function, behaviour and structure). This allows us to represent the reciprocal influence of change within and between these different categories, while using a common notation and common approach to graphing quantitative data. Our approach demonstrates how research traditions that are currently distinct from each other (such as co-evolution, collaboration and function-behaviour-structure) can be connected by a single analytic approach. 
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  7. Abstract

    Professionals need to collaborate with multiple stakeholders in product development to stay competitive and to innovate. Through their values and mission, companies develop a specific working environment that can lead to the development of design methods and tools. In this article, we study design team dynamics of professional engineers working in two different organizations. We aim at identifying differences in team behaviors between teams drawn from two different organizations. The goal is twofold. At a theoretical level, we aim at gaining a better understanding of the effect of work culture on design team behaviors. At a methodological level, we explore whether grouping teams from different organizations into a single larger sample to obtain better reliability is relevant. To do this, we compared two cohorts of teams based on which company engineers worked at. Both companies are international organizations employing more than 50,000 collaborators worldwide. Teams of three engineers worked on designing a next-generation personal assistant and entertainment system for the year 2025. We analyzed each team’s design interactions and behaviors using quantitative tools (Multiple Factor Analysis and Correspondence Analysis). Results from this exploratory analysis highlight different behaviors between cohorts as well as a common overall approach to team design thinking.

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  8. Abstract Designers faced with complex design problems use decomposition strategies to tackle manageable sub-problems. Recomposition strategies aims at synthesizing sub-solutions into a unique design proposal. Design theory describes the design process as a combination of decomposition and recomposition strategies. In this paper, we explore dynamic patterns of decomposition and recomposition strategies of design teams. Data were collected from 9 teams of professional engineers. Using protocol analysis, we examined the dominance of decomposition and recomposition strategies over time and the correlations between each strategy and design processes such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation. We expected decomposition strategies to peak early in the design process and decay overtime. Instead, teams maintain decomposition and recomposition strategies consistently during the design process. We observed fast iteration of both strategies over a one hour-long design session. The research presented provides an empirical foundation to model the behaviour of professional engineering teams, and first insights to refine theoretical understanding of the use decomposition and recomposition strategies in design practice. 
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