Low-resolution prototyping : ideation tool and implementation of structured methodology



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Low-resolution prototyping is acknowledged as a critical step in the engineering design process, but when and how physical representations of early conceptual models should be produced is often convoluted. In this research, two studies were conducted using low-resolution prototypes and materials. In the first study, student teams were tasked with generating potential solutions to a broad-scoped engineering design task. The use of physical artifacts was studied as it relates to both ideation as well as team communication. Building upon this, teams were then assigned to construct a concept they developed, and quantitative measures were taken to assess system performance. Teams with access to physical artifacts during ideation produced a higher number of concepts as well as better performing systems. In the second study, a systematic tool was created to guide engineering teams through the low-resolution prototype design and evaluation processes. This tool is designed to have a broad application, and to assist teams in outlining a specific approach to constructing and evaluating early-stage physical models. The tool itself was evaluated to determine its effect, if any, on designers' decisions to iterate and improve concepts, as well as their decisions to conduct further concept generation based on the results of prototyping. The design and evaluation guides were then provided to undergraduate design teams and any effects due to student exposure to the guides were analyzed. Teams used them throughout their design process. Results were gathered regarding the teams' subjective views on the guides as well as their overall low-resolution prototyping process. Low-resolution physical prototyping is becoming more accessible to engineering teams of all types, and decisions on when and how resources should be allocated to this process still remain somewhat unstructured. Implementation during the ideation phase, as well as development of a systematic method for embodiment following concept generation, are two stages of design in which low-resolution prototyping appear to be effective towards achieving a successful design outcome.