Functional modeling through energy flow diagrams for novice engineering design students
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Functional Modeling through Energy Flow Diagrams for Novice Engineering Design Students By Sadhan Sathyaseelan, MSE The University of Texas at Austin, 2015 SUPERVISOR: Richard Crawford The UTeachEngineering program from The University of Texas at Austin is currently developing a high school engineering curriculum that emphasizes design, project-based learning, and development of engineering habits of mind. One module in the curriculum uses reverse engineering of an electromechanical device to teach functional modeling, among other design methods and techniques. Experienced engineers think in terms of the functions – what a product or system must do – before they determine what it will be in its physical form. This is an abstract way of thinking that is commonly taught to engineering undergraduate students, but can be difficult for high school students to grasp. To assist novice engineers (both high school students and undergraduates), a new approach has been developed and evaluated. The Energy Flow Diagram (EFD) focuses on modeling and documenting the energy flow and transformations in the product or system. Energy conversions are prevalent in most products that are feasible for high school students to reverse engineer, and we hypothesize that the results of energy conversions are evident in the behavior of these products. In this paper, we describe the EFD and the materials developed to support its teaching. The EFD method was piloted with an assortment of students from different majors and year of study in the undergraduate level. A pre/post-test was conducted to evaluate any increase in functional thinking among novice design engineers. It was found that the tool was much simpler to understand and implement, and also provided some insights for product redesign opportunities that are similar to the current method of teaching functional modeling.