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Engineering Problem Solving: Learning and Practice

[+] Author Affiliations
Zbigniew M. Bzymek

University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Paper No. IMECE2012-88527, pp. 433-440; 8 pages
  • ASME 2012 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 5: Education and Globalization; General Topics
  • Houston, Texas, USA, November 9–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4521-9
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


The Engineering Problem Solving process has two aspects. It relies on the talent of the designer on the one hand and the efficiency of the problem solving tools on the other. Talent is an attribute of a person. It is very difficult to formalize the talent of an individual, and no satisfactory formalization has been achieved successfully. For this reason only the original designer’s talent and his/her knowledge and experience are available for use during the problem solving process. However, there are several choices and decisions that can be made concerning methods, algorithms, and software packages. After those choices are made the next steps in the problem solving process can be outlined. The problem solving method described in this paper is called a Brief Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (BTIPS) and was developed on the basis of TRIZ (Russian: теория решения изобретательских задач, teoriya resheniya izobretatelskikh zadatch) and TIPS (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and taught at the University of Connecticut (UConn). The application of this method starts with the accurate definition of the problem. The problem has to be properly separated from the environment. Further problem solving choices depend on the knowledge of the designer and include the right sequence of steps, definition of contradictions, choice of solution modules, algorithms, definition of designed systems and subsystems, and choice of elements and objects. There are several further paths to be selected and resulting decisions to be made. Those decisions and the processes following them are described in this paper. The recommendations for the proper path are given and the procedures are discussed. The derivation of the Ideal Solution is described and tests of the solution’s effectiveness and economy are given. The experience gained from teaching one Mechanical Engineering course, three MEM (Management Engineering for Manufacturing) courses at UConn, one graduate course at UConn, one graduate course at the University of Fairfield, and several special non-academic courses for practicing engineers is summarized. Some students’ opinions are analyzed and recommendations for further education and the practice of engineering problem solving are derived. The references to the existing teaching, research, practice, and development studies are quoted. This paper is devoted to the characteristics of BTIPS method. The companion paper [1] is devoted to the characteristics of the software that could be used with the method. TIPS (the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is a further development of Altshuller’s theory done by Invention Machine under the leadership of Valery Tsourikov [2]. BTIPS (Brief Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is a simplified version of TIPS developed at the University of Connecticut (UConn) especially for teaching purposes, though it is also powerful when applied to engineering practice problems [3].

Copyright © 2012 by ASME



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