Creative thinking during concept generation is an important source of successful innovation; thus, techniques that support creative conceptual designs are imperative to engineering design processes. Ideally, concept generation strategies should be based on empirical evidence to prove their applicability in the design context. A recently created ideation tool, called Design Heuristics, was developed through empirical studies of professional engineers and award-winning products. While the Design Heuristics strategies were identified and validated in the engineering product design space, their application in biomedical engineering spaces has not been examined.
In our study, we implemented a Design Heuristics lesson during one session of a year-long upper-level undergraduate biomedical engineering design course. Thirty-eight students worked in nine design teams on a project they chose from a set provided by the instructor. Prior to the session, students articulated their understanding of their project aims and specifications by completing a short assignment. During the in-class session, the students participated in three concept generation tasks. In the first, they individually generated design concepts based on their own natural ideation approaches. During the second, after a short training on how to use the tool, they individually generated concepts using a subset of the Design Heuristics. In the third period, students discussed their initial ideas within their teams and developed three ideas they chose to pursue. In this paper, we present a deep analysis of 12 students who participated in three of these biomedical engineering product design teams.
Our analysis revealed that biomedical engineering students successfully engaged in idea generation with the use of Design Heuristics. The students’ teams used the Design Heuristics to build new concepts. Each of the three teams produced diverse concepts and reported their use of specific Design Heuristics. The findings presented here include the design concepts during the Design Heuristic-inspired ideation, along with individual and team consideration of the concepts. We present specific examples of concepts generated with the tool, as well as final team ideas selected for further development. The findings suggest that Design Heuristics can support idea generation in a variety of biomedical engineering design project contexts, supporting the use of the Design Heuristics tool outside of the previously documented product design contexts. As in other studies of idea generation, Design Heuristics were found to facilitate idea generation by novice designers in a biomedical engineering domain.
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