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An Algorithmic Approach to Teaching Functionality

[+] Author Affiliations
Robert L. Nagel

James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Matt R. Bohm, Josh Cole, Phillip Shepard

University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

Paper No. DETC2012-70625, pp. 121-134; 14 pages
  • ASME 2012 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 9th International Conference on Design Education; 24th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, August 12–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4506-6
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


The consideration of function is prevalent across numerous domains as a technique allowing complex problems to be abstracted into a form more readily solvable. In engineering design, functional models tend to be of a more generalized nature, and consequently, engineering design derived functional representations do not aim to replace domain specific models but to encapsulate those models at a higher and more integrated system level. While the value of function in engineering design seems to be generally recognized, it remains a difficult concept to teach to students of engineering design. In this paper, an algorithmic approach to teaching function and functional model generation is presented. The approach uses a series of grammar rules to assemble function chains from a list of enumerated functions desired of the final product. Function chains can then be aggregated into a complete functional model. The approach has been trialed with senior capstone design students taught about functionality as well as how to generate a black box model and how to enumerate functions. Student-generated functional models are compared to expert generated functional models in the paper. Preliminary results indicate that a student with limited functional modeling experience could follow the prescribed algorithm to generate an aggregated functional model based solely on a black box model.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME
Topics: Teaching



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