A Typology of Engineering Designs in Problem-Based Projects

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The problem-based project is a widely applied method for creating learning experiences that closely resemble engineering practice. Problem-based projects support active learning, experience with design and implementation, and integrated learning experiences. These three learning principles are all key standards in CDIO. In problem-based projects, teams of engineering students develop solutions to problems (often across disciplines and in cooperation with an industrial partner, e.g. a manufacturer, a public utility, or a software developer). A good solution meets design requirements and solves the project’s problem.
However, beyond these two characteristics, the nature of (good) engineering solutions is under-explored. The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of the nature of engineering solutions in problem-based projects across engineering disciplines. The study’s findings include a set of general characteristics of great engineering solutions and a typology of three solution archetypes. The study labels these archetypes as 1) the adapted solution, 2) the “either/or”-solution, and 3) the multiple-elements solution. For each archetype, the paper specifies the corresponding class of problems that the archetype can logically address. In
addition, the paper delineates (1) how each archetype relates to a project’s analysis and (2) how each archetype is evaluated, implemented and operated. The typology aids both students and project supervisors in conducting reports with a coherent flow beginning with a problem, continuing with analysis and solution design, and finally ending with implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event14th International CDIO Conference - Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT), Kanazawa, Japan
Duration: 28 Jun 20182 Jul 2018


Conference14th International CDIO Conference
LocationKanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT)


  • Problem-based project
  • Project-based learning
  • Engineering design
  • Design typology
  • Standards: 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11

Cite this

Larsen, S. B., & Bigum, P. V. (2018). A Typology of Engineering Designs in Problem-Based Projects. Paper presented at 14th International CDIO Conference, Kanazawa, Japan.