Scholars have argued that supporting engineering students in the development of a design thinking mindset is a promising approach to address better preparation of students for their future professions. Blank notebooks are recommended as a best practice for undergraduate engineering educators to use for both instructional and assessment purposes. However, for an engineering student engaging in the complex work of design for the first time, knowing how to plan and carry out a design project and how to document the process in a blank book can be a daunting task. The blank book has the potential to be re-envisioned as a structured design notebook, a new tool for illuminating the processes of engineering design and project management while providing scaffolds for design thinking. The research question was: How does a new type of engineering design notebook--structured with prompts, tasks, and scaffolds--support college students as they engage in design thinking within an engineering studio design course?
The purpose of this qualitative research study was to understand the role of a structured engineering design notebook within a bioengineering studio design course offered at an urban public university. In this course, teams comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students designed, prototyped, and presented innovative neural engineering devices in a competitive environment. This qualitative case study presents an in-depth analysis of one student team comprised of three students.
This specific case builds an understanding of how a structured engineering design notebook may be employed in an engineering design course as a tool to support students' engagement in design thinking and design-related epistemic practices of engineering. Design principles that emerged from the data are presented. The engineering design notebook at the focus of this research study has the potential to be used in other settings; the notebook will eventually be published and made available to instructors and students.
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