Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Summers, Joshua D

Committee Member

Joseph , Paul F

Committee Member

Blouin , Vincent Y


The purpose of this research is to explore the application of prototyping in the design process through a case study analysis using structured interviews, an ethnographic study, and documents analysis, to determine what factors and practices result in successful prototyping. In doing so, research questions are established, a prototyping process is developed to assist the investigation, and classification systems are created to organize data collected in the study. As part of the case study, an interview is formulated to answer the proposed research questions and a literature survey of prototyping in design is used to create a larger analytical foundation. Five interviews are conducted focusing on engineers and collaborators at Michelin, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Clemson University. Interviewees are chosen to represent all institutions within the primary case and various levels of involvement within those institutes. The interviews, ethnographic study, and documents analysis are surveyed, helping define the selection criteria for the literature study. Five literary studies are then chosen based on the information they convey and to represent a diverse range of design goals. Two case research tools are developed, as part of the investigation, to extract and organize qualitative data such that it can be aggregated and analyzed in a cross-case analysis. The first tool collects data needed to analyze the effect of project factors such as team size, time constraints, and available facilities on the prototyping process. The second collects data needed to analyze the relationships between design needs, prototype roles, and discrete prototyping options available to the designer. The tools are used in the investigation to establish prototype factor relationships and project factor guidelines by identifying repeating and corroborating patterns, ideas, and concepts in the case study. These, in turn, help to define successful prototyping practices and factors. Finally, the results are used to evaluate the research questions, assess the completion of the goals, and investigate the implications of this research on the design process. It is found that the approach is capable of developing generalized analytical conclusions which can identify factors and practices affecting prototyping success by applying them as relationships and guidelines.



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