Otto and Wood, professors at MIT developed a list of questions that should be answered before any product development project is begun. The questions are designed to uncover problems and inconsistencies within the definition of the project. In addition the design team can gain a common understanding of the problem and the purpose of their work by answering these questions. The list of questions are below.
- What is the problem really about?
- Why are you bothering to solve this problem? Who will benefit?
- What implicit expectations and desires are involved?
- Does the sponsor of the project have requirements that will not show up in the project documentation but will influence the design?
- Are the stated functional requirements, constraints truly appropriate?
- Sometimes sponsors place restrictions on the solution to the problem that are not necessary or are contradictory. It is always best to adress these issues as early in the project as possible.
- What characteristics must the product have?
- What requirements are non-negotiable? What must the product do to be considered a success?
- What characteristics must the product not have?
- What must the product not do to be considered a success? These characteristics are non-negotiable.
- What aspects of the design should be quantified now?
- What information should we get now before investing any more time and energy into the project? What information would cause us to abandon the project?
- Has the design been posed at the appropriate level of abstraction?
- Should the design team be looking at the larger problem? View the two videos by Tina Seelig about reframing problems to answer this question. Videos available by clicking here.
- What are the technical and technological conflicts inherent in the design task?
- What makes this design task difficult? Often this is a conflict between competing goals. A classic conflict is between cost and quality. Sponsors might say “The product should be inexpensive” and then in the next breath say “The product must last for 10 years.”
Powered Wheel Chair Trainer Technical Questions Example
In the fall of 2008, a group of engineering students at Grand Valley State University accepted the challenge to design a machine to help severely and multiply handicapped children learn to control a powered wheel chair.
What is the problem really about?
- The device must accommodate a wide variety of wheel chairs.
- The device must not harm the user or the physical therapist!
- Yes, some engineers have looked at virtual training methods that employ a computer monitor or screen and an input device. The user then sees the results of their inputs on the scree. However, the physical therapists have expressed a desire for the user to experience the motion. They believe That the motion will serve as a powerful motivating influence for the user.
- The device must accept many different designs of wheel chairs.
- Wheel chairs must be attached and unattached from the device quickly and easily.
- The device must accommodate a variety of input devices such as a joystick or individual directional switches.
- The device must not be heavy or bulky in order for physical therapists to move the device.
- A study of the many different designs of wheel chairs should be noe immediately so the design team knows the volume of space available for the device to occupy.
- If we ask why are we solving the problem, the answer is to teach severely and multiply handicapped students to control power wheel chairs. There are many ways this could be done. For instance we could try to create a virtual reality simulator to teach the students. However, the sponsor has suggested that the device consist of a power unit with batteries and electric motors that attaches to a wide range of wheel chairs and allows the user to control the motion of the combined device and wheel chair with a variety of input devices. The level of abstraction and therefore scope are appropriate for the project.
- As stated before the device must accept a wide range of wheel chairs and allow the physical therapist to secure the wheel chair to the device quickly and easily.