The challenge of conceiving: Approaches to problem identification and framing

Claus Thorp Hansen, Ulrik Jørgensen

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    One of the big challenges in the CDIO approach to engineering education is the first part focusing on conceiving problems to be handled and eventually solved. Traditional engineering education has been dominated by its focus on technical disciplines emphasising their individual tool box of problem solving and optimization methods. Going back to the earlier days of engineering education problems were defined through the repertoire of existing technologies and solutions taken up and handled as given cases in the education. With the growing emphasis on scientific methods leading to a continued change in engineering disciplines throughout the mid 20th century the focus changed and problems were defined in more theoretical terms. Engineering education remained dominated by its introduction of a more and more dense repertoire of methods and theoretical models. In this paper we will approach this problem from the perspective of engineering design challenges where the need for problem identification is obvious to avoid the pitfall to reproduce and piecemeal engineer already existing product or service concepts. Problem identification is not a simple desk research task as it often involves a multitude of actors having different or even not very well established ideas of what might be a good design result. We present two mutually supportive approaches to problem identification that we have developed, applied and refined. The first is providing an approach to map the arenas of development that influence the context of materials, visions and actors providing the basis for analysing problems related to a design task. The second is providing an approach to the co-evolution of problem space and solution space into a matching pair, which constitutes a good starting point for synthesising design concepts. The two approaches have a solid grounding in existing theories of the socio-technical nature of engineering and the process of synthesising solution spaces in engineering design.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationConference proceedings 7th International CDIO Conference, Technical University of Denmark, 20th – 22nd June 2011
    Number of pages1136
    Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
    PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
    Publication date2011
    ISBN (Print)978-87-985272-6-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    Event7th International CDIO Conference - Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Duration: 20 Jun 201123 Jun 2011
    Conference number: 7


    Conference7th International CDIO Conference
    LocationTechnical University of Denmark
    Internet address


    • Conceiving
    • Problem identification
    • Conceptualisation
    • Development arena

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