[PhD Defense] Design Knowledge Coordination: Enhancing Novice Aerospace Engineers’ Design Skills Through Coordinated Decision-Making

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Design Knowledge Coordination is a structured approach to integrating design considerations across the different disciplines in engineering design through use of goals, tasks, metrics, and decisions. A key aspect to connecting coordination to aerospace engineering design is the recognition that this process encompasses distinct, yet interdependent aspects of design.

This work addresses three research questions: (1) What design knowledge coordination does aerospace engineering require? (2) How do aerospace engineers coordinate and integrate knowledge about a design? (3) What educational interventions can better support novice aerospace engineers’ design knowledge coordination?

To answer the first research question, a framework of structuring design knowledge and design knowledge coordination was characterized from a systematic analysis of literature review, which investigated processes that encompass coordination. Subsequently, an authoritative example of coordination within the aerospace engineering design process was developed by analyzing texts commonly referenced in traditional aerospace engineering capstone courses. Indicators of coordination were identified at all stages in the conceptual design process. 

The second research question applied a multiple case study method: an analysis of observations of student teams in a capstone design course captured indicators of coordination. Additionally, each student teams’ design process was characterized and compared to the design process within the authoritative text characterized in research question one. These findings were contrasted with students’ perspectives of their engineering design.

The third research question connected findings from research question one and two to literature on engineering education strategies to identify learning goals and design activities that could better support students’ design knowledge coordination. Suggested evaluation criteria connect the findings from all three research questions to the design knowledge coordination framework.

This research contributes to both the aerospace engineering design community and the aerospace engineering education community by defining key indicators of coordination as well as outlining indicators to identify and enhance designers’ coordinated decision-making within the aerospace engineering conceptual design process. Further, results of this research will address the noted gap between aerospace engineering education and the needs of industry for engineering graduates to use effective approaches to engineering design, integration, and synthesis.

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Cognitive Engineering Center (CEC)
Georgia Institute of Technology
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