Dr. Alexandra Coso successfully defended her PhD dissertation on Friday, March 28th, 2014. Dr. Coso's thesis is titled "Preparing Student to Incorporate Stakeholder Requirements in Aerospace Vehicle Design." This research serves as a starting point for future research in pedagogical techniques and assessment methods for integrating stakeholder requirements into technology-focused capstone design courses. The results can also inform the vehicle design education of students and engineers from other disciplines. Following graduation, Alexandra will be a post-doctoral scholar with Georgia Tech's Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL). Dr. Amy Pritchett is Alexandra's advisor and committee chair.
The design of an aerospace vehicle system is a complex integration process. The vehicle then operates in an equally complex context, dependent on many aspects of the environment, the performance of stakeholders and the quality of the design itself. Satisfying the needs of all stakeholders is a complicated challenge, and stakeholder requirements are, at times, neglected and/or design decisions are made without considering the operational context of the vehicle system. Given the quantity and variety of stakeholders affected by the design and operation of an aerospace vehicle system, it is critical to examine how to better incorporate stakeholder requirements earlier and throughout the design process. The intent of this research is to (1) examine how stakeholder considerations are currently integrated into aerospace vehicle design practice and curricula, (2) design empirically-informed and theoretically-grounded educational interventions for an aerospace design capstone course, and (3) isolate the characteristics of the interventions and the learning environment that support students’ integration of stakeholder considerations.
The first research phase identified how stakeholder considerations are taken into account within an aerospace vehicle design firm and in current aerospace engineering design curricula. Interviews with aerospace designers revealed six conditions at the group, interaction and individual levels affecting the integration of stakeholder considerations. Examining current curricula, aerospace design education relies on quantitative measures. Thus, many students are not introduced to stakeholder considerations that are challenging to quantify. In addition, at the start of an aerospace engineering senior design course, students were found to have some understanding of the customer and a few contextual considerations, but in general students did not see the impact of the broader context or of stakeholders outside of the customer. The second research phase focused on the design and evaluation of a Requirements Lab and a Stakeholders in Design Lab, two in-class interventions implemented in a senior aircraft design capstone course. Further, a Stakeholders in Design rubric was developed to evaluate students’ design understanding and integration of stakeholder considerations and, as such, can be used as a summative assessment tool.
The two in-class interventions were evaluated using a multi-level framework to examine student capstone design projects, a written evaluation, and observations of students’ design team meetings. The findings demonstrated an increase in students’ awareness of a diverse group of stakeholders, but also perceptions that students appeared to only integrate stakeholder considerations in cases where interactions with stakeholders were possible and the design requirements had an explicit stakeholder focus. Further, particular aspects within the aircraft design learning environment such as the lack of explicit stakeholder requirements, the differences between the learning environment in the two semesters of the course, and the availability of tools impacted students’ integration of stakeholder considerations and overall effectiveness of the active interventions
This research serves as a starting point for future research in pedagogical techniques and assessment methods for integrating stakeholder requirements into technology-focused capstone design courses. The results can also inform the vehicle design education of students and engineers from other disciplines.