Joran W. Booth, Abhinav K. Bhasin, Tahira Reid, Karthik Ramani
Evaluating the Bottom-Up Method for Functional Decomposition in Product Dissection Tasks


The purpose of this study is to continue to explore which function identification methods work best for specific design tasks. Prior literature describes the top-down and bottom-up approaches as equivalent methods for functional decomposition. Building on our prior work, this study tests the bottom-up method against the top-down and enumeration methods. We used a 3-factor within-subject study (n=136). While most of our diagramoriented metrics were not statistically different, we found statistical support that: 1.) students reported that the dissection activity was more useful when using bottom-up, and 2.) that student engineers committed many more syntax errors when using the bottom-up method (by listing parts instead of functions). We believe that both these results are due to the increased focus on individual parts. We do not know if an increased attention to the parts would increase novelty or fixation, and recommend future studies to find out.

About Joran Booth

Joran is a D-PhD student in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue. He received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the Brigham Young University. His research focuses on how students abstract and solve complex problems in early design phases, with a special emphasis on functional decomposition and sketching/visualization. Other research interests include prototyping, engineering history, education, family science, and history. Joran spends his free time volunteering, playing board games, hiking, playing music, or spending time outdoors. His past projects include starting the Purdue Maker’s club, various sketching workshops, and simple robots. He recently finished an internship at IMMI, a top automotive safety products company.  Joran is a member of ASME and the Order of the Engineer. You can find more information at

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Posted in 2014, Design Learn, DESIGN METHOD, Design Representation, Joran Booth, Karthik Ramani