Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 334–347 | Cite as

Investigating the Impact of Using a CAD Simulation Tool on Students’ Learning of Design Thinking

  • Manaz Taleyarkhan
  • Chandan DasguptaEmail author
  • John Mendoza Garcia
  • Alejandra J. Magana


Engineering design thinking is hard to teach and still harder to learn by novices primarily due to the undetermined nature of engineering problems that often results in multiple solutions. In this paper, we investigate the effect of teaching engineering design thinking to freshmen students by using a computer-aided Design (CAD) simulation software. We present a framework for characterizing different levels of engineering design thinking displayed by students who interacted with the CAD simulation software in the context of a collaborative assignment. This framework describes the presence of four levels of engineering design thinking—beginning designer, adept beginning designer, informed designer, adept informed designer. We present the characteristics associated with each of these four levels as they pertain to four engineering design strategies that students pursued in this study—understanding the design challenge, building knowledge, weighing options and making tradeoffs, and reflecting on the process. Students demonstrated significant improvements in two strategies—understanding the design challenge and building knowledge. We discuss the affordances of the CAD simulation tool along with the learning environment that potentially helped students move towards Adept informed designers while pursuing these design strategies.


Computer-aided design Simulation Design thinking First year engineering Informed designers 



Research reported in this paper was supported by the National Science Foundation under the award DRL 1503436 and 1151019. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Science Foundation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computer and Information TechnologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Northrop GrummanFalls ChurchUSA
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Program in Educational TechnologyIndian Institute of Technology BombayMumbaiIndia
  4. 4.School of Engineering EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  5. 5.Institute for Excellence in Engineering EducationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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