Design Learning and Creativity in Engineering Education: The Impact of Product Interactions

Open Access
Toh, Christine
Graduate Program:
Mechanical Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Scarlett Rae Miller, Thesis Advisor
  • Engineering design
  • creativity
  • product interactions
  • product dissection
  • virtual dissection
  • learning
  • self-efficacy
  • novelty
Interacting with example products is an essential and widely practiced method in engineering design, yet little information exists on how the representation (pictorial or physical) or interaction a designer has with an example impacts design creativity and learning. In addition, factors such as the designer’s own personality traits as well as the medium in which the designer interacts with the example can also affect design cognition and learning. These knowledge gaps are problematic because we do not yet fully understand how examples affect idea generation and learning of key engineering concepts, or how we can effectively modify or develop design methods to support example usage practices and instruction. In this thesis, the results of three experimental studies with a total of 95 engineering students are reported. The results of these studies show that personality traits affect involvement in team-based dissection activities and thus, design creativity. Additionally, the modality of the example (2-dimensional or 3- dimensional) used during early design ideation practices influence the resulting creativity of design outcomes. Lastly, the results show that the medium of interaction (virtual or physical) result in the same amount of student learning, but differ in terms of the amount of self-efficacy gains experienced by the students. The contributions of this thesis are threefold. First, the results add to our understanding of the role that individual attributes such as personality and the type of designer-product interaction play on design cognition and creativity. Second, the findings of this thesis highlight the effect that virtual dissection interfaces have on student learning and self- efficacy. Lastly, these results provide an empirical basis for the development of recommendations and guidelines for enhancing example usage in engineering design practice and education. Overall, the results add to our understanding of how individual traits and different designer-product interactions affect design creativity, learning, and retention in engineering education. These results are used to derive new ways for improving student-product interactions in engineering design courses.