Research Papers: Analogy Evaluation

The Four-Box Method: Problem Formulation and Analogy Evaluation in Biologically Inspired Design

[+] Author and Article Information
Michael Helms

School of Interactive Computing,
Georgia Institute of Technology,
85 Fifth Street NW,
Atlanta, GA 30308
e-mail: mhelms3@cc.gatech.edu

Ashok K. Goel

School of Interactive Computing,
Georgia Institute of Technology,
85 Fifth Street NW,
Atlanta, GA 30308
e-mail: goel@cc.gatech.edu

Note, during training we sometimes refer to the four-box representation as a structured representation for X, where X is either a design problem or an existing solution.

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received January 24, 2014; final manuscript received July 30, 2014; published online October 8, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Robert B. Stone.

J. Mech. Des 136(11), 111106 (Oct 08, 2014) (12 pages) Paper No: MD-14-1082; doi: 10.1115/1.4028172 History: Received January 24, 2014; Revised July 30, 2014

Searching for biological analogies appropriate for design problems is a core process of biologically inspired design (BID). Through in situ observations of student BIDs, we discovered that student designers struggle with two issues that bookend the problem of search: design problem formulation, which generates the set of conditions to be used for search; and evaluation of the appropriateness of the retrieved analogies, which depends both on problem formulation and the retrieved analogy. We describe a method for problem formulation and analogy evaluation in BID that we call the Four-Box method. We show that the Four-Box method can be rapidly and accurately used by designers for both problem formulation and analogy evaluation, and that designers find the method valuable for the intended tasks.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Topics: Design , Students
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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

The SR.BID problem schema, including main conceptual categories represented as boxes and the relationships between categories represented as annotated directional arrows between boxes

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Example of a student Four-Box design problem specification for making self-cleaning, bacteria-resistant door handles, taken from 2011 BID class homework assignment

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Example of a student T-chart for evaluating the problem of reducing light post breakage against the biological analogue of a saguaro cactus, taken from a 2011 BID class final project

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

The Four-Box diagram consisting of (a) operational environment, (b) functions, (c) specifications/constraints, and (d) performance criteria

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

The T-chart for analogy evaluation provides a side-by-side view of the Four-Box specification of the design problem and the Four-Box specification of a biological analogy. The middle column is used to qualitatively specify for each row the similarity of the match between the problem and biological analogy as either the same, similar, different or N/A (not shown).

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Difference among majors in the overall accuracy of concept categorization using the Four-Box method, from 2011 to 2012 student assignment data




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