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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Engineers play an important role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations, which aim to provide a more sustainable environment for future generations. Through design thinking, creativity, and innovation, sustainable engineering solutions can be developed. Future engineers need to acquire skills in their engineering curriculum to feel equipped to address sustainable design challenges in their career. This paper focuses on the impact of perceived design thinking traits and active learning strategies in design courses to increase senior engineering students’ motivation to engage in energy sustainability in their career. A national survey was distributed to senior engineering students in the United States (n = 4364). The survey asked students about their motivation to engage in sustainable design, their perceived design thinking traits (i.e., integrative feedback, collaboration), and if they experienced active learning strategies in design courses (i.e., learning by doing). The results highlight that higher perceived design thinking ability increases senior engineering students’ interests in designing solutions related to energy sustainability. Active learning experiences positively influence senior engineering students’ interests in designing solutions related to energy sustainability. These findings show the importance of teaching design thinking in engineering courses to empower future engineers to address sustainable challengesmore »through design and innovation.« less
  4. The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) method and toolkit provides a well-structured approach to support engineering design with pre-defined steps: interpret and define the problem, search for standard engineering parameters, search for inventive principles to adapt, and generate final solutions. The research presented in this paper explores the neuro-cognitive differences of each of these steps. We measured the neuro-cognitive activation in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of 30 engineering students. Neuro-cognitive activation was recorded while students completed an engineering design task. The results show a varying activation pattern. When interpreting and defining the problem, higher activation is found in the left PFC, generally associated with goal directed planning and making analytical. Neuro-cognitive activation shifts to the right PFC during the search process, a region usually involved in exploring the problem space. During solution generation more activation occurs in the medial PFC, a region generally related to making associations. The findings offer new insights and evidence explaining the dynamic neuro-cognitive activations when using TRIZ in engineering design.
  5. Abstract The research presented in this paper explores features of temporal design neurocognition by comparing regions of activation in the brain during concept generation. A total of 27 engineering graduate students used brainstorming, morphological analysis, and TRIZ to generate concepts to design problems. Students' brain activation in their prefrontal cortex (PFC) was measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Temporal activations were compared between techniques. When using brainstorming and morphological analysis, highly activated regions are consistently situated in the medial and right part of the PFC over time. For both techniques, the temporal neuro-physiological patterns are similar. Cognitive functions associated to the medial and right part of the PFC suggest an association with divergent thinking and adaptative decision making. In contrast, highly activated regions over time when using TRIZ appear in the medial or the left part of the prefrontal cortex, usually associated with goal directed planning.
  6. Ideation is a key phase in engineering design and brainstorming is an established method for ideation. A limitation of the brainstorming process is idea production tends to peak at the beginning and quickly decreases with time. In this exploratory study, we tested an innovative technique to sustain ideation by providing designers feedback about their neurocognition. We used a neuroimaging technique (fNIRS) to monitor students’ neurocognitive activations during a brainstorming task. Half received real-time feedback about their neurocognitive activation in their prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with working memory and cognitive flexibility. Students who received the neurocognitive feedback maintained higher cortical activation and longer sustained peak activation. Students receiving the neurocognitive feedback demonstrated a higher percentage of right-hemispheric dominance, a region associated to creative processing, compared to the students without neurocognitive feedback. The increase in right-hemispheric dominance positively correlated with an increase in the number of solutions during concept generation and a higher design idea fluency. These results demonstrate the prospective use of neurocognitive feedback to sustain the cognitive activations necessary for idea generation during brainstorming. Future research should explore the effect of neurocognitive feedback with a more robust sample of designers and compare neurocognitive feedback with other types ofmore »interventions to sustain ideation.« less