Innovative design within the context of virtual internships: How can it be defined and how is it related to the student design process?

Matthew Raymond Markovetz, Renee M. Clark, Golnaz Arastoopour, Zachari Lucius Swiecki, David Williamson Shaffer, Naomi C. Chesler, Cheryl Bodnar

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Definitions of "innovative design" vary among authors and fields of study. This presents a difficulty for those seeking to identify innovation when it occurs in a novel context, such as within the epistemic game Nephrotex. Nephrotex encourages players, who assume the role of virtual interns within the game, to explore a constrained design space with the goal of producing an optimized dialysis membrane as the end product. We have taken as a starting point the definition of Baregheh, Rowley, and Sambrook1, which defines the process leading to an innovative design as "a process that not only leads to unique physical or technical product attributes but also adds value beyond existing designs on the market." To evaluate whether a device within Nephrotex adds "value," quality can be assessed based on the work of Arastoopour and colleagues2, and takes technical and economic performance into consideration. Uniqueness of the design can then be determined by employing decision trees to understand at which points in the design process teams make innovative choices that lead to unique, high-quality designs. Higher branches within the decision trees are weighted more heavily in terms of uniqueness. This research was performed with sophomore chemical engineering students in the Spring 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters. A total of 50 teams of approximately 4-5 students each were studied. Half of the teams participated in a focus group as described by Markovetz and colleagues3. Student design processes were evaluated based on design performance as well as weekly design journal entries wherein students reported the three activities they spent the most time on, which were categorized according to the framework of Dym4. We found that participation in a focus group has a medium effect in terms of odds ratio (1.8) in increasing innovation in student designs. From student surveys we found that there were no significant differences between innovative and non-innovative teams in terms of the occurrences of the design activities (grouped by Dym's categories) they spent the most time on (t and MannWhitney tests), though our sample size was small. However, the category with the largest effect size (d=0.68) was management, for which improvements have been shown to increase innovation by Ozaltin5. In terms of design attributes that contribute to generating innovative final products, we observed that teams with lower innovation scores may deprioritize cost while also reviewing prior information more than innovative teams. This is useful in that it provides a map for design decisions that could possibly lead to more innovative designs within the context of constrained design spaces such as Nephrotex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016


Other123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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