Abstract

Designers often gather information, for instance through stakeholder or domain expert meetings, to understand their design problems and develop effective solutions. However, few previous studies have provided in-depth descriptions of novice engineering designers' approaches to conducting information gathering meetings. In this preliminary study, we analyzed data from six capstone mechanical engineering design teams to identify the types of individuals from whom teams gathered information, when these meetings occurred, and how teams solicited information during meetings. Teams in our study demonstrated a range of information gathering behaviors that aligned with recommended practices, particularly in their early meetings. Furthermore, we observed relatively few instances of teams exhibiting behaviors that were less similar to recommended practices during meetings. However, our findings also revealed two key trends across teams that represented specific opportunities for improvement and that may reflect novice approaches to conducting information gathering meetings. First, teams consistently explored domain experts' perspectives in depth during meetings but did not typically explore the perspectives of their project partners in similar depth. Teams also met with additional domain experts to inform their projects. In addition, teams seemed to finalize their design decisions in their early design meetings and were less likely to conduct information gathering meetings in later design phases. The comprehensive descriptions of novice mechanical engineering designers' approaches provided in our preliminary study provide an entry point for further investigations that can inform engineering training, tools, and pedagogy for conducting effective information gathering meetings.

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