Comparing the design problem solving processes of product design and engineering student teams in the US and UK

Senay Yasar Purzer, Mark Henderson, Alison McKay, Chell Roberts, Alan De Pennington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The delivery of sustainable and innovative products and services in global marketplaces demands changes in the way engineers are educated. Identification of essential elements of global engineering education and development of global competencies in engineering design are key prerequisites to the development and delivery of emerging global engineering curricula. The goal of the research reported in this paper was to characterize how diverse design teams operate differently and what common methods they use despite the differences in their backgrounds. We analyzed the design problem-solving strategies and processes used by four student teams. Two of these teams consisted of senior product design students in the UK and two of them included freshman engineering students in the U.S. We used a cross case study analysis to compare senior product design and freshman engineering teams as well as mixed-gender and all-male teams. We asked all student teams to solve an engineering design problem on a fictitious street crossing issue occurring on their college campus. We video-recorded their discussions and collected the documents they produced during the protocol. A key characteristic of the product design teams was their use of drawings at every stage of the design process; in contrast the freshman engineering teams carried out more detailed information gathering activities. These differences between senior product and freshman engineering teams reflected the emphasis areas in their curriculum. All four teams frequently iterated between the different stages of the design process and project planning was a neglected area for all teams. Further research is needed to increase the number of team studies to explore the role of design drawings in supporting team communication, team information gathering and use processes, and the role of team diversity in supporting innovative design solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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