Representations, between engineering design and engineering analysis

Hadi Ali, Ann F. McKenna

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This is a survey paper submitted to the Design in Engineering Education Division (DEED). As a survey paper, it provides a comprehensive review of the literature on the topic of representations between engineering design and engineering analysis. This research aims to characterize the overlap as well as distinctness between engineering design thinking, on the one hand, and engineering model-based reasoning, on the other hand. The 1990s witnessed the rise of a transformative wave to the engineering curricula, where the 'engineering science' model became dominant in engineering curricula. In this model, the focus in the first two years of the curriculum is placed on the 'engineering sciences,' or, alternatively, 'analysis,' with the expectation that students would apply the learned scientific principles to solve technical problems. However, a segregation problem between 'design' and 'analysis' started to emerge. The problem was caused not only by lack of appreciation for the complexities associated with design teaching and learning, but also by lack of students' fluency to apply their learned mathematical modeling skills in complex, open-ended design problems. In this paper, we develop a 'representations framework' to study the relationship between engineering design thinking and engineering model-based reasoning. It is the focus of this study to understand the role of multiple representations in problem solving, in order to characterize the overlaps and the distinctiveness in the use of the term 'representation' in the contexts of mathematical modeling and design processes. Engineering design is a systematic, intelligent process that aims to solve ambiguous problems. In the majority of current engineering education curricula, a major emphasis is placed on the traditional view where prerequisite ideas are taught in decontextualized situations. While students in their courses interact with models in varying contexts, teaching focuses on algorithmic steps to find a solution. In this paper, we develop a framework to understand how representation is described, taught and learned in analysis-focused classes and in design-focused classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1189
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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