Evaluating methods of bio-inspired design and problem equivalency

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Durand, Fabien R.
Linsey, Julie
Telenko, Cassandra
Jiao, Jianxin (Roger)
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Bio-Inspired Design is becoming an increasingly popular approach that uses nature as a source of inspiration in order to develop innovative designs. This thesis first presents a study that was performed in an engineering elective course and aims to explore the effectiveness of five different existing methods for Bio-Inspired Design: Directed, Case Study, AskNature.org, BioTRIZ, and Bio-keyword search. These methods were evaluated based on the quality and quantity of the ideas that students generated, the students’ change in self-efficacy, and their feedback. The metric results demonstrated that each method produces numerous effective and creative solutions, with high quality and large quantity of ideas. Additionally, the course positively affected the students’ design confidence, outcome expectancy and anxiety, while also preserving students’ high motivation towards engineering design. As such, these results serve to identify potential areas for improvement for the methods and the course. > Secondly, a considerable portion of design theory research seeks to develop and optimize design methods. In experiments, short design problems are often provided to participants in order to evaluate the effects of the variables being tested. Certain characteristics may influence design outcomes: experience and prior exposure to the design problems. In this thesis, a small set of design problem characteristics that may influence experimental outcomes are conjectured, and two experiments targeted at uncovering these influences are discussed. The findings show that the problems used, are effective for the quantity and variety metrics, but not for quality and novelty. Survey results expose the possible existence of interaction between the design method and the design problem, especially when testing Bio-Inspired Design methods, and demonstrate the necessity to further explore design problem constructions and characteristics to better evaluate and test methods of design.
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