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Restricted exploration of design space is a problem that novice designers face when solving engineering product design problems. Consequences of limited exploration can be the generation of sub-optimal solutions and fixation towards the first solution idea or known solution space. Expert designers sift through their vast repertoire of solution alternatives and choose the appropriate solution for the given design problem. Novices, however, lack this vast repository of alternative solution approaches. Therefore, it is good practice for novices to expand the problem and solution space and explore different aspects of the product design problem before identifying solutions appropriate for the design problem.
Flare-fork collaborative strategy is a design exploration strategy that enables designers to generate opportunistic ideas related to the design problem and integrate them during the design process thereby expanding problem and solution space. The flare-fork collaborative strategy leverages rapid ideation, and semantic analogy thought transformation strategy to generate new ideas, interlinking ideas in design space map (DSM) for the elaboration of ideas, and thought transformer strategy to manipulate ideas for expanding problem and solution space. This paper describes a study to examine how the operationalization of the flare aspect of flare-fork collaborative strategy as an intervention supports the design process of three teams of students. We found that students frequently traverse between problem and solution space via an intermediate bridge space. Also, regardless of where the students begin, they do a comprehensive exploration of problem and solution space while using flare-fork collaborative strategy. Students’ perception of using flare-fork collaborative strategy to explore engineering product design is predominantly positive, with students identifying several ways in which flare aspect of flare-fork collaborative strategy aided them in their expansion of problem and solution space.
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